Methods of safeguarding the consumers

1. Consumer Protection laws

a) Sale of Goods Act 1979:
The main provisions are:

  • Goods must suit the purpose for which they are sold.
  • Goods sold by description must fit the description.
  • Goods sold by sample must correspond with the sample.
  • Goods must be of merchantable quality.

In the event of any of these conditions not being fulfilled, buyers are normally entitled to choose whether the retailer refunds the money, replaces the goods or repairs them.

b) Trade Description Act 1968
This Act lays down penalties for traders who deceive the public by making false claims for their goods and inaccurate price comparisons. It is an offense to claim that an article is worth £10 and is sold for £7, when actually it is worth less than £10. Likewise a seller should not claim that his articles are unbreakable or waterproof unless they actually are. This Act is enforced by trading standards officers.

c) Fair Trading Act 1973
This Act is controlled by a Director General who is assisted by the Consumer Protection Advisory Committee. There are some recommendations:

  • Retailers are not allowed to quote manufacturers’ recommended prices.
  • Shopkeepers are forbidden to have notices such as, “No Cash Refunded” as it will mislead a consumer as to his rights.
  • Traders who are selling goods must not pretend to sell them as private citizens.
  • The Act sets codes of practice for traders to follow so that customers are satisfied.

d) Consumer Protection Act 1987
Sometimes consumers are endangered by goods they buy. This Act imposes a duty on manufacturers to supply safe products. Failure to do so may render a firm to pay unlimited compensation. For example, a gas burner must have a guard, which prevents clothing from touching the flame.

e) Food and Drugs Act 1955
This Act controls the contents of food products and their labeling. It is enforced by the local environmental health department. It is also concerned with the ingredients in food items. For example:

  • Jam must contain a minimum proportion of the named fruit.
  • Meat pies must contain 25% of meat.
  • At least 50% by weight of sausages must be meat.

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2. Consumer Protection Agencies (organizations)

a) National Consumer Council
The NCC, which was established in 1975 by the Government, has members from trade unions, parliament, industry and independent consumer organizations. Their role is to make the consumers’ view known to the government. The NCC has made strong representations to the government about bus services, optical services and shop opening hours.

b) Citizens Advice Bureau
Their role is to act as a mediator between consumers and traders in areas where there is no consumer protection agencies.

c) The British Standards Institution:
It lays down standards for a manufacturer to follow. The BSI cannot enforce its recommendations, as it is an independent organization. The kite mark of the BSI is regarded as a sign of quality by consumers, due to extensive tests by BSI inspectors.

d) The Media:
The press, television and radio are very important in dealing with individual complaints. Some newspapers run their own consumer protection agencies. They make a consumer aware of his rights.

e) The Consumers’ Association:
The Consumers’ Association is an independent and non-profit making organization. It publishes a monthly magazine “Which?”. In its report, “Which?”, the list of good and bad points of a particular product are published. This enables a consumer to choose the best product from a range of products. The association also advises its consumers on consumer problems. The association also publishes “Gardening From Which?” and “Holiday Which?”, which deal with pregnancy restaurants, health, divorce and taxes.

f) Codes of practice
Industries establish voluntary code of practice for the guidance of their members and the protection of consumer. The advertising standard authority is an example. Though the consumers are protected by trade description Act, the advertising standard authority maintains code of practice. It is described as example the Retail Trading Standard Association, The British Electro Technical Approval Board.

3. Other means of safe guarding consumers

Self Protection
Consumers must themselves try to get information about the goods and services they consume so that they will be able to check all the particulars when goods or services are supplied to them.
Most retailers are prepared to correct genuine mistakes.
Further, where genuinely faulty goods are concerned the retailer will probably have little trouble in obtaining the refund from manufacturer.

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