Today world consumer day is being celebrated with much fanfare. The theme this year is Digital Consumers and their protection. It must be appreciated that in this digitalised world the focus shift on protection of digital consumers from normal consumers is thought off.
Do we really understand the difference between normal consumers and digital consumers? For many the difference lies only in the way they make their purchases either online or offline. Rest of the duties and/or rights remains same for Digital or Physical consumers as well as sellers.
Many of us don't go beyond this distinguishing feature. Have we ever considered beyond this? What is main purpose of celebrating World Consumer Day? It's to remind all of us about our rights and duties of consumers and strengthen the consumer movement.
It is many a times said that consumer is the king. But in this digitalised world and use of technology and particularly in online shopping scenario is this position of consumer still as a King?
According to my observations there are many disadvantages to which our so called King is exposed to and no longer can he claim to be a King.
For evaluation, we will consider some distinguishing features.
1. In case of physical consumer making purchase at any shop, he is pretty sure about the location of same and jurisdiction of that shop. Does this hold true in case of digital consumers? How many digital shoppers know about exact location of online website they are visiting to? How many digital shoppers know about legal jurisdiction of that website, in case of certain mishap?
2. In case of physical consumer, he can be somewhat sure about authenticity of the shop with which he is dealing with either due to its continual operation from same location or certifications from government's various departments. Does this hold true for digital consumers who are visiting online shopping websites?
3. Physical consumers at least know that there is Consumer Protection Act for their rights protection but what about protection of Digital Consumers? Are they covered under Consumer Protection Act?
4. Under which laws the Digital consumers get protection?
5. Which jurisdiction digital consumers can invoke if their consumer rights are breached?
How many digital consumers are really able to provide answers to above questions? Or how many agencies celebrating this World Consumer Day have thought it proper to give a serious thought on above raised questions and tried to find out answers for some of them so that we can really protect Digital Consumer?
It's sad but true that very few of us consumers and consumer movement agencies have ignored these distinguishing threats to which ever growing digital consumer is being exposed to.
It's high time that all agencies working for betterment of Digital Consumers should sit together and find certain proposals/suggestions for the safety of Digital Consumers.
I from my end have certain proposals for betterment of Digital Consumers.
1. The Online Shopping websites should be strictly covered under some legal regime and there must be some registration procedure for the same.
2. All the Online Websites should be compelled to accept payment after delivery and there must be some cooling time with banks to effect the funds transfer in shopping websites account.
3. The Digital Consumers must be made aware about how to verify authenticity of shopping websites and what precautions they should observe while making online shopping.
4. The responsive mechanism i.e. Police and Judiciary must be suitably upgraded to register and try matters in case of digital consumer disputes.