Govt moots independent body to protect consumers

Our Bureau

New Delhi, June 1

The war against spurious goods seems to be intensifying with the Government now mooting an independent authority to initiate action to protect consumers from the menace of counterfeit, fake, spurious and contraband products.

The setting up of an independent authority is a recommendation from the Working Group on counterfeit, fake, spurious and contraband products set up by the Department of Consumer Affairs, which submitted its final report recently.

The Department of Consumer Affairs is already contemplating the setting up of a National Consumer Protection Authority, which would focus on critical areas affecting consumer health and provision of safe drinking water, milk, food and drugs, the report pointed out.

Additionally, appropriate infrastructure facilities should be provided to consumers to get doubtful products tested to pursue further action, the report suggested.

The report urges industry associations to jointly set up a `Better Business Bureau' to protect the interest of consumers.

According to the estimates by the International Anti Counterfeiting Alliance, counterfeit automotive parts sold in the country annually accounts for about Rs 20,000 crore, constituting nearly 35 per cent of the market share.

A survey conducted by the Bureau of Indian Standards had shown that about 88 per cent of gold jewellery tested was found to be of much less caratage than claimed. The Mashelkar Committee on drugs set up by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare had reported that the extent of adulteration in drugs ranged between 0.5 -35 per cent.

India Inc. on its part has been trying various measures to combat the issue that results in a loss of around Rs 30,000 crore to the industry and Rs 15,000 crore to the Government annually.

For instance, Hindustan Lever and Procter & Gamble are working with FICCI's Mumbai-based Brand Protection Committee (BPC). The BPC tracks down manufacturers and sellers of spurious goods and tries to eliminate these channels by interacting with the Government agencies and judiciary.

Soft drink major, PepsiCo has market intelligence actions and resources in place to survey suspect locations and identify manufacturers/distributors of spurious goods.

It also frequently interacts with the police, especially on raids in different markets.

Recently, the District Investigative Unit in East Delhi found a fake bottling plant wherein several spurious versions of brands including Pepsi, Limca, Mirinda and Coca-Cola were unearthed. This included bottles, caps and coloured liquids/chemicals.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated June 2, 2006)
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