Consumer organizations are advocacy groups that seek to protect people from corporate abuse. Unsafe products, predatory lending, false advertising, astro turfing and pollution are all examples of corporate abuse.
Consumer organizations may operate via protests, campaigning or lobbying. They may engage in single-issue advocacy (e.g., the British Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), which campaigned with great success against keg beer and for cask ale), or set themselves up as consumer watchdogs such as the Consumers' Association in the UK. One common method is the independent comparative survey or test of a particular type of product or service, involving different manufacturers or companies (e.g., Which?, Consumer Reports, etc.).
Another arena where consumer organizations have operated is food safety. The needs for campaigning in this area are less easy to reconcile with their traditional methods, since the scientific, dietary or medical evidence is normally more complex than in other arenas, such as the electric safety of white goods. The current standards on mandatory labelling, in developed countries, have in part been shaped by past lobbying by consumer groups.
The aim of consumer organizations may be to establish and to attempt to enforce consumer rights. Effective work has also been done, however, simply by using the threat of bad publicity to keep companies' focus on the consumers' point of view.
List of Customer Organization
Consumer Education and Research Centre is the leading consumer rights organisation in India. CERC is a non profit, non government body, dedicated to the protection and promotion of consumer interests through active use of research, media, law, advocacy and information dissemination. CERC does not belong to any political party, nor does it subscribe to any political ideology.
CERC is recognised as a research institute by the Government of India and as a consumer organisation by the Government of Gujarat. The United Nations has recognised CERC as one of the approved non government organisations.
FEDCOT (Federation of Consumer Organisations in Tamil Nadu)
The Federation of Consumer Organisations of Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry, well known by its acronym, FEDCOT, is a nation-wide non-governmental organisation that is voluntary non-profitable, non-political, civic-minded, secular and registered under Societies Act (Registration Number 227/90) to work for the promotion and development of consumers’ interest and their welfare. Freedom fighter R.R.Thalavai was responsible for the founding of the organisation in 1990.It is an umbrella body of more than 350 registered consumer associations in Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry. It is one of the largest consumer organisations in the country and in Asia working at grass-roots level. It embraces people from different walks of life. It is significant that sixty percentage of the member councils are in rural areas.FEDCOT is a consumer movement of the people, by the people and for the people. It is concerned with human values.
Vision of FEDCOT
‘Quality of life’. Its main concern is not only value for money but also quality of life. Achieving this quality of life is FEDCOT’s long-term vision.
Area of operation of FEDCOT
FEDCOT which started with just eighteen member units in 1990 has grown in to a massive organisation with more than 350 member councils as of January 2004. It functions in all the thirty revenue districts of Tamil Nadu and the Union Territory of Pondicherry. These districts are divided into seven regions for the organisational purpose.
FEDCOT is a democratic set-up. The general body and executive committee take policy decisions. The management consists of seven members to look after the day-to-day affairs of the organisation. Its Structure is outlined below.
To identify and deal with the issues various directorates are formed. They are :
Training Directorate is the nodal body to co-ordinate the activities of all other directorates. It organises se-inars, workshops, campaigns, etc. with the member councils at the district level, zonal level and implements the FEDCOT’s policies and programmes at the grass-roots level. There are two district co-ordinators in each district of whom one is a woman. The co-ordinators act as a bridge between member councils and the managing committee.
Mission of FEDCOT
FEDCOT acts as a research, training, education, awareness creating and advocacy group. It builds linkages and works in partnership with community-based organisations and grass-roots communities to strengthen their capacity and empower them to participate through initiatives in socio-economic accountable governance, sustainable agriculture, gender equalisation and ecological endeavours.
FEDCOT’s programmes are designed and implemented so as to train people as citizen – consumers, to develop and empower them at the community level through participating accountable governance, socio-economic, sustainable agriculture gender equality and environmental efforts, to facilitate access to, and management of, resources for people to develop their full potential and expand their choices in accordance with their needs and interests. Since its inception, FEDCOT has been focusing its attention on the following areas.
Training consumer activists at the taluk and district level to create awareness among them about various issues concerning consumers using participatory methodology. It is a continuous process.
To generate knowledge, collect information and use innovation to support consumer education, protection and sustainable people centred development process.
Campaign through seminars, workshops and media for better and stronger consumer protection legislation, strengthening the position of women and children in the society and sustaining clean and healthy environment.
Developing projects in partnership with vulnerable sections of society such as workers, women, children and farmers through : food security, health, consumer education programmes.
FEDCOT networks with various organisations at the local State, national and international levels.
Citizen Consumer and Civic Action Group
Citizen consumer and civic Action Group (CAG) is a non-profit, non-political and professional organisation that works towards protecting citizens rights in consumer and environmental issues and promoting good governance processes including transparency, accountability and participatory decision-making.
CAG came into existence on 7 October 1985 as a non-profit, non-political, non-religious, voluntary and professional citizens group based in Chennai, India. S. Govind Swaminadhan, legal practitioner and former Advocate General of the State of Tamil Nadu, was the founding trustee of CAG. The initial trustees included S. Guhan (former Finance Secretary, Government of Tamil Nadu), S.L.Rao (former Chairman, Central Electricity Regulatory Commissioner), Shyamala Nataraj (development journalist with the South India Aids Action Program) and Sriram Panchu (Senior Advocate).
The Group was originally christened Consumer Action Group. After nearly a decade of our existence, we decided to change it to CAG (Citizen, consumer and civic Action Group), keeping in mind the larger role that groups such as ours have to play. Specifically, issues affecting the common citizen such as extreme pollution, lack of access to information, poor quality health care and civic amenities have emerged as priorities in the work undertaken by CAG.
Over the last five years, our main activities have ranged from campaigning for greater access to information, monitoring the functioning of public utilities and advocating for greater transparency and accountability in governmental and private sector functioning to decentralised and localised urban planning, and the protection of open spaces and our natural environment.
A Board of Trustees consisting of persons from different walks of life, but with a common objective of improving the quality of life for citizens oversee the Groups’ activities.CAG ’s activities are carried out by a team of young professionals with different academic and work backgrounds. In the implementation of our programmes we draw upon the resources of a wide range of experts skilled professionals, government officials academia, journalists and fellow civil society and NGO activists. This informal consultation with the ‘Friends of CAG’ results in an inclusive, comprehensive and informed kaleidoscope of ideas that we analyse and apply appropriately.
Every activity of ours is characterized by the identification of the one critical intervention, which will directly impact the citizen-consumer in a significant way. We arrive at this core conclusion by the following steps:
Consumer Guidance Society of India
The Consumer Guidance Society of India (CGSI) is a consumer rights organisation based in Mumbai, India. It was the earliest consumers organisation in India, founded by nine women in 1966 , and became the first to conduct formal product testing in 1977. CGSI publishes a magazine, Keemat.
Consumers have often been made to endure sub-standard products, very high prices, hazardous drugs, never ending shortage of goods and many more injustices. To fight against these odds 9 ladies in Delhi came together to form Consumer Guidance Society of India (CGSI).
Achievements and Features
Consumer Unity of Trust Society
CUTS International (Consumer Unity & Trust Society) began its journey in 1983 in Rajasthan, from a rural development communication initiative, a wall newspaper Gram Gadar (Village Revolution). This monthly is published regularly and has been instrumental in providing a forum for the oppressed classes to get justice. On seeing Gram Gadar, Rubens Ricupero, the immediate past Secretary-General of UNCTAD observed: “It confirmed my view that often the simple lack of awareness lies at the root of so much misery”.
In 1983, CUTS was a small voluntary group of concerned citizens operating out of a garage on a zero budget at Jaipur. Today, its annual budget exceeds US$2.5mn or Rs13crores. The organisation consists of five programme centres and one resource centre in India (at Jaipur with headquarters, Chittorgarh, Calcutta and New Delhi), two resource centres in Africa (at Lusaka, Zambia and Nairobi, Kenya) and one resource centre in London, UK. CUTS is probably the only Indian NGO with such overseas operations. The current staff strength is over 130 persons, of which one third are females at managerial levels too.
CUTS is registered since 1984, under the Rajasthan Societies Registration Act, 1958, the FCRA and under Sec: 80G of the Income Tax Act. It is governed by a 12-member Executive Committee, which is elected every three years from a general body of 350 life members and 150 institutional members.
With the Vision of “Consumer sovereignty in the framework of social justice and equality, within and across borders” the activities of CUTS, as a research, advocacy and networking organisation working on several areas of public interest, are divided into:
CUTS works with several national, regional and international organisations, such as Consumers International, London; International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development, Geneva; South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics and Environment, Kathmandu. It serves on several policy-making bodies of the Government of India, such as the Advisory Committee on International Trade of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and the Central Consumer Protection Council of the Ministry of Food, Public Distribution and Consumer Affairs. It is accredited to the UNCTAD and the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development. CUTS is a member of a number of international networks in the areas of its work programme, such as the Asia-Pacific Research and Training Network on Trade of the UN ESCAP. It has catalysed the setting up of International Network of Civil Society Organisations on Competition. In addition, CUTS representatives serve on various advisory bodies of WTO, OECD, UNCTAD, World Bank, University of Manchester, Loyola University, Chicago etc.
Over a period spanning more than two decades, CUTS has received support from individuals and institutional sources, such as Government of India (Commerce, Consumer Affairs, Environment & Forests), UK’s Department for International Development, Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, Novib (Oxfam Netherlands), Swedish International Development Agency.
Ministry of Consumer Affairs
The Department of Consumer Affairs under Ministry of Consumer Affairs,Food & PD is responsible for the formulation of policies for Monitoring Prices, availability of essential commodities, Consumer Movement in the country and Controlling of statutory bodies like Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) and Weights and Measures. The Department is entrusted with the following works:
Mumbai Grahak Panchayat
Mumbai Grahak Panchayat (MGP) is a registered voluntary consumer organization established in 1975. It has more than 20,000 members in and around Mumbai (Bombay) to whom it supplies about 75 essential commodities at their door-step, every month.MGP's joint purchase and distribution system has been acclaimed by Consumers International which supports, links and represents consumer organizations all over the world.To enable consumers to exercise their choice, especially before festivals, MGP also has Consumer Plazas at different locations in the city, for 10 days every year. Items like readymade clothes, bed sheets, bags, sarees, utensils, crockery are sold at reasonable rates.
MGP’s Consumer Protection Wing has filed a number of public interest petitions to protect consumers' interests.MGP’s Consumer Education Wing organizes consumer awareness camps, workshops, seminars for students and teachers.MGP’s Study and Research Wing undertakes consumer research and provides the base for launching various consumer interest campaigns.An in-house newsletter Grahak is sent to all members, free of cost. A number of priced publications are also available.MGP has a number of Complaint Guidance Centres all over Mumbai which give free guidance to consumers having complaints.MGP also has a new Environment Wing which looks after matters of environmental interest.In 1990, MGP was honored with the National Award (2nd) by the Government of India for its outstanding contribution to Consumer Protection.
Bureau of Indian Standards
The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), the National Standards Body of India is involved in the development of technical standards (popularly known as Indian Standards), product quality and management system certifications and consumer affairs. It resolves to be the leader in all matters concerning Standardization, Certification and Quality.
In order to attain this, the Bureau strives:
During the pre independence period, standardization activity was sporadic and confined mainly to a few Government purchasing organizations. However, immediately after independence, economic development through coordinated utilization of resources was called for and the government recognized the role for standardization in gearing industry to competitive efficiency and quality production. The Indian Standards Institution (ISI) was, therefore, set up in 1947 as a registered society, under a Government of India resolution.
The Indian Standards Institution gave the nation the standards it needed for nationalization, orderly industrial and commercial growth, quality production and competitive efficiency. However, in 1986 the government recognized the need for stregthening this National Standards Body due to fast changing socio-economic scenario and accorded it a statutory status. Thus, came the Bureau of Indian Standards Act 1986 and on 1 April 1987, newly formed BIS took over staff assets, liabilities and functions of erstwhile ISI. Through this change over, the Government envisaged building of the climate of quality culture and consciousness and greater participation of consumers in formulation and of National Standards.1 April 1987