Advocacy – 2017 – 18
- Posted by CERC India
- Posted in Advocacy
CERC has used a variety of tactics and strategies to influence decision makers. Illustratively, theÂ Bill draftedÂ by CERC was much appreciated by the Government and helped shape the Right toÂ Information Act, 2005. Research apart, it involved advocacy by forming coalitions with otherÂ consumer groups, engaging with legal experts, collaborating with a reputed national lawÂ university, conducting meetings and workshops and launching public campaigns .
AnotherÂ campaign against counterfeit textile products made the central Government amend theÂ regulations on stamping of fabrics.
Questions were raised in parliament based on our test results of Packaged Drinking Water and aÂ mandatory standard was set. CERC filed a public interest Litigation (PIL) before the SupremeÂ Court on the issue of unmanned railway crossings, still a burning issue in Road safety. CERCÂ also uses media to advice and guide consumers with press releases and radio and televisionÂ interviews.
CERC survey reveals leading e-portals blatantly violate labeling regulations: The Consumer Affairs ministry made amendmentsÂ to the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011. It has made it mandatory for e-commerce firms to display the MRP of goods along with other mandatory label information on the digital and electronic network used for e-commerce transactions. CERC carried out a quick online survey of some product categories like food, toys, household items and shoes on popular e-commerce portals like Amazon, Snapdeal, Flipkart and Bigbasket. We observed several gaps in compliance with theÂ Rules, like MRP is not shown on labels of pre-packaged products and MRP variation is huge from portal to portal for the same product. For e.g. Figaro Olive Oil Tin 500 gm showed MRP of Rs 495 on Amazon and MRP of Rs 700 on Snapdeal. Also, for food products â€“ no manufacturing date and use before/best before/expiry date on e-portals.
CERC sent Â a representation to the Ministry of Consumer Affairs (MoCA), urging it to institute a system to monitor compliance of labelling regulations, especially display of MRP and food labeling requirements, on all e-commerce portals and have stringent enforcement mechanisms.
Representation on Product Returns: Requested MoCA to issue mandatory regulations for e-commerce companies on product returns/replacements/refunds to protect online shoppers. The presence of a regulatory framework will instill confidence and trust in consumers and prevent e-commerce companies from getting away with unfair practices.
Representation made to IDEA Cellular for harassment suffered by consumers due to calls received from unknown numbers during odd hours: IDEA was requested to ensure that the filtering of unsolicited calls should be made more stringent. They should block and blacklist such numbers at the system level itself irrespective of consumers registering for Do Not Call Registry. IDEA replied saying that the customers can block calls from their handsets. We have sent a response, reminding them of their responsibility to customers to provide harassment free service.
Representation made to TRAI to enforce the Do Not Call Registry of telephone numbers: TRAI requested to instruct all telecom companies to block unsolicited calls to subscribers as per customer preferences. TRAI also requested to block and blacklist such numbers at the system level itself.
Requested MoCA to share copy of MoU/MoA signed with ASCI: We wrote to MoCA requesting them to share with us a copy of the MoU/MoA that was signed between MoCA and ASCI for handling complaints received from consumer organisations on GAMA portal. CERC wanted to understand the complaint handling procedure decided between DoCA and ASCI. This would help the organization in raising complaints according to the agreed terms and conditions.
Representation to FSSAI: Testing in CERCâ€™s in-house laboratory has revealed some shocking truths. Most popular brands of Cream Biscuits have unacceptably high sugar and fat content. We made a representation to FSSAI to formulate mandatory standards (fix upper limits) for fat and sugar for cream biscuits. It should ensure that the labels of biscuit packets indicate clearly whether the product is high in fat, salt and sugar content as the case may be. Manufacturers must give accurate values of fat and sugar content on labels and make conscious efforts to lower fat and sugar content in cream biscuits and also try to improve their nutritive value in terms of fibre content, vitamins and minerals.
Requesting MoCA to ensure consumer organizations are not bullied by ASCI: ASCI, in its recent mails, used tone and language which was extremely offensive. It had started giving directions to CERC regarding complaint procedure which CERC complied with (although our feedback/opinion was not sought). CERC wrote to MoCA requesting their intervention on the following: (i) Any change in the complaints procedure should be advised by MoCA to CERC directly and not by ASCI, as we deal directly with MoCA on the GAMA portal. (ii) ASCI should be told to refrain from using offensive language and casting blame where itâ€™s not justified.
Representation on organic foods: FSSAI was urged to set stringent limits for pesticides and heavy metals in organic foods. This was based on our testing of organic moong dal and the findings that emerged.
Representation to curb in-flight use of portable electronic devices: It is commonly seen during flights that despite the crew making the announcement, as well as personally requesting passengers to put away their phones, some people continue to use their phones. Rule 29B of the Aircraft Rules, 1937, prohibits the use of portable electronic devices (PEDs), according to which no one is allowedÂ the operation of any portable electronic device on board an aircraft in flight. We urged the DGCA to modify the in-flight announcement regarding dangers of using mobile phone in flight. Also, we have requested DCGA to consider introducing penalty for passengers who donâ€™t comply.
- MoCA has sent our Representation for modification of flight announcements to prevent usage of PEDs in flights to the Ministry of Civil Aviation for necessary action.
- We also made a Representation to Mr. Anil Srivastava, Joint Secretary (PG), Ministry of Civil Aviation, GoI, requesting for a modification in flight announcements which should inform the passengers that not switching off/putting devices in aircraft mode would put the userâ€™s as well as the life of others in danger.
- The complaint was uploaded on CPGRAMS-DARPG, the grievance redressal portal of Govt. of India. They closed the complaint with the reply that necessary instructions were covered in Rule 29B of CAR and our suggestions were noted. To this response, we submitted feedback on the portal that we requested modification beyond Rule 29B.
Edible Oil in Small Packs: We had made a representation to the FSSAI and MoCA to ensure that small packs of edible oil are made available in the market for the weaker sections of society. In a recent meeting on food fortification, FSSAI CEO, Ashish Bahuguna, publicly stated that smaller packs should be adopted by industry.
Triclosan: Our representation to HUL and Dabur asking them to remove triclosan (an antibacterial banned by FDA) from their products found some success. HUL replied saying it will remove triclosan from its products by 2017 while Dabur aims to do so by 2019. We had also made a representation to MoCA on the issue. MoCA has written to BIS to review the Indian Standards in view of the FDA decision.
ASCI Advisory on Celebrity Endorsement: CERC has been advocating for regulations on celebrity endorsements for a long time. Our campaign against the Vimal Pan Masala advt featuring Ajay Devgan and Maggi advt featuring Madhuri Dixit highlighted this issue. Recently ASCI has come out with an advisory on Celebrity Advertising. Finally, our campaign for making celebrities responsible for the products they endorse has seen success. The advisory clearly states that celebrities should do due diligence to ensure that all description, claims and comparisons made in the advts they appear in or endorse are capable of being objectively ascertained and capable of substantiation and should not mislead or appear deceptive.
E-vendors selling at more than MRP: We came across instances where vendors on Amazon and many e-portals were selling products at a price more than the MRP. This is an unfair trade practice under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. It is also an offence as per the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011. We wrote to Amazon, asking the e-commerce major how it proposed to correct this. We also wrote to the Secretary, Dept. Of Consumer Affairs, Government of India calling for immediate intervention. We are happy to inform you that the latest amendments to the Packaged Commodity Rules mandate that all e-portals mention the actual MRPs of products. We have now written to Amazon to know by when they will be implementing this.
Gujarat FDCA acts on CERCâ€™s call to curb misleading advts: We had brought 15 advertisements to the notice of FDCA Gujarat. These products claimed to cure diabetes, obesity, impotence, short height and cancer which is a violation of the provisions of the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act. FDCA sent notices to manufacturers of 13 of these products asking them to stop publication of the objectionable advts with immediate effect and also discontinue marketing and sale of the products being advertised.
Continuing with our campaign we again brought 34 advts to the notice of FDCA Gujarat. This time FDCA wrote to 8Â publications where these advts were published and asked them to share the contact details of the advertiser so that further steps can be taken.
Fake Lakme Eyeconic Kajal found on Amazon
- We found that counterfeit Lakme Eyeconic Kajal was being sold on Amazon and this was immediately brought to the notice of both HUL and Amazon. Our efforts resulted in the seller Sublime being barred from Amazon and HUL filing a police complaint against the seller. Amazon informed that 340 customers have purchased Eyeconic from this particular vendor. But it would refund only to the 7 customers who have complained. We didnâ€™t agree to this and pressurized Amazon and HUL to compensate all the 340 consumers.
- Ms Pritee Shah raised the issue at a panel discussion organised in New Delhi by the Ministry of Consumer AffairsÂ (MoCA) to mark World Consumer Rights Day on 15th March 2017. Amazonâ€™s director, public policy, was on the panel. He contended that Amazon could not be held responsible if fakes were sold from its platform. We disagreed with this. We put forward our arguments justifying why Amazon is responsible for the products sold on its portal.
- We have also made a strong representation to MoCA to intervene in the matter and protect online shoppers from cheating and fraud.
- Made a representation to Consumers International to mount a global campaign to protect Consumers’ Right to Safety in the light of fake products being sold on Amazon
- We also started an online petition on Change.org to support our campaign to stop online sale of fake products
- The police has now recorded the statement of Ms Pritee Shah for the complaint initiated by HUL against Amazon vendor Sublime.
UPDATE- Amazon has sent the original product provided by HUL to all the 340 customers. CERC had, however, insisted that this should be accompanied by an advisory to consumers to stop using the earlier product and destroy it. Since this information was not conveyed to the consumers, we continue to urge Amazon to take necessary steps.Â We have sent a legal notice to Amazon
RTI on medical aids on flights: Filed an RTI with the Director of Civil Aviation on the medical aids available on flights. We had come across a case where a senior citizen couple was travelling from Sydney to Mumbai in Jet Airways. The wife went into diabetic coma. Although there was a doctor on board among the passengers, there was no instrument to measure the blood sugar. We got responses to all our RTIs from the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). However, the responses quoted sections from the Civil Aviation Rules but did not give details of implementation of regulations asked for by CERC. We have urged the Ministry of Civil Aviation, DGCA, Ministry of Consumer Affairs and the Prime Minister for their intervention.
Airlines should not charge extra: Representation made to Ministry of Civil Aviation and MoCA to â€œStop Airlines from levying exorbitant seat selection chargesâ€. A family or a group of friends travelling together by air may end up sitting separately unless they pay for selecting seats next to each other. This is because more than 50% of seats are available for prior selection. Airlines charge heavily for seat selection. Ms. Jayashree Narayan, Under Secretary, MoCA forwarded our representation to the Ministry of Civil Aviation requesting it to look into the issue.
E-Wallets: We wrote to Ministry of Electronics and Information and Technology, Govt of India, with our suggestions and comments for the Draft Information Technology (Security ofÂ Prepaid Payment Instruments) Rules 2017. With e-wallets gaining more and more popularity, there are several aspects that need to be considered for consumer benefit and protection. We listed issues like interest payment on e-wallet balance, transferability of the balance and grievance redressal mechanism.
RTI Rule 12: Sent CERC Comments on draft RTI Rules 2017 to Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, Govt. of India. We requested them to amend Rule 12 which states that an RTI file closes if the applicant dies. Closing pending appeals/complaints in this manner not only undermines the purpose of the RTI application, but does disservice to the applicantâ€™s family and to the benefit that may have accrued to public interest at large by the disclosure.
Broadband Labelling: TRAI has released a public consultation paper on â€œData Speed Under Wireless Broadband Plansâ€. A detailed response with our comments was sent to TRAI.
Representation to GoG to review allocation of Consumer Clubs to VCOs: The Govt of Gujarat this year allocated only 30 Consumer Clubs to CERC as against 75 last year. Some other VCOs in Gujarat are also facing the same issue. A representation has been made to Govt of Gujarat on behalf of all VCOs to reconsider the decision. GoG has reviewed the decision and has allocated 82 schools to CERC.
Representation to ASCI: ASCI recently responded to one of our complaints saying that â€œquestions regarding regulatory approval/product approval/proof of safely/dosage instructions may be lodged in pgportal.gov.in for the concerned State regulatorâ€ instead of including it in our complaint. We objected to this as it is against consumer interest. We felt that the queries raised by us are important to verify the truthfulness of the claims and should be explored while questioning the advertisements.
Request to TCS to donate computers to CERC: We have made a representation to TCS to consider donation of computers to CERC. Â We have requested our former trustee and chairperson Mrs. S. Kohli for her intervention. Informatively TCS had, in 2006, donated 20 computers to CERC.