The 12th International Consumer Law Conference Blog

Organised by NALSAR and the International Association for Consumer Law

25th February – Creating a Legal Infrastructure to Protect Consumers in a Global Economy; Consumer Protection and Varied Approaches

Session: 2:00 to 3:20 P.M. in Seminar Hall III

Chairs: Prof. Gail Pearson, University of Sydney, Australia – Streamlining Consumer Law Rules: an Australian Perspective, and Prof. N. Vasanthi, Associate Professor, NALSAR, Eco-labeling and its implications for third world farmers

Vasundhara Ravi and Geetanjali Dhankhar, Post-Graduate students of NALSAR (India), Developmetn of Ombudsman’s Role as a Champion of Consumer Interests in Financial Sector: A Study of the Banking Bombudsman Scheme in India.

The session began with Prof. Gail Pearson who discussed the position of consumers in her home country of Australia. One portion of her presentation dealt with the harmonization of consumer protection policies between Australia and New Zealand. This is in light of the recent effects on globalization that has affected the two countries. The next portion dealt with Red Tape with respect to rethinking regulation and  the cost of business and regulating reform. There needs to be a review of consumer protection laws. Also examined was the extent of self-regulation in terms of financial services, which is higher in Australia in comparison to other countries. Government intervention is necessary because the competition policy alone is not enough. In conclusion, Prof. Pearson emphasized the need to get rid of the inconsistencies present in the law and that there was not enough being done to protect the consumer. The advantage with the issuance of a federal law is consistency while the disadvantage might possibly be a loss of innovation. The fact of the matter is that a country needs to compete economically and for best consumer protection.

Vasundhara Ravi and Geetanjali Dhankhar:

The Ombudsman scheme has as its basic philosophy the provision of an inexpensive, expeditious, fair and accessible system of dispute resolution. The word ‘Ombudsman’ meaning a ‘grievance man’ is a public official who is appointed to investigate complaints against the administration. The concept has now been extended to the private sector as well including banks, telecommunication, transport, insurance, energy, and media broadcasting.

The first part of the presentation dealt with the examination of the role of Banking Ombudsman plays in providing expeditious and satisfactory disposal of customer complaints in a time bound manner. In the second part, the revised Scheme of 2006 was discussed. The presentation ended with a view of the lacunae in the Scheme and various ideas to address them.

Prof. N. Vasanthi:

Consumer Law has moved beyond looking at the interests of consumers alone and has taken a holistic approach to concerns of consumers by viewing consumers ultimately as citizens of a nation and increasingly global citizens. The concerns of consumers in any part of the world are tied up to the concerns of the manufacturers in other parts of the world.  With increasing decentralization of manufacturing and a global market opening up for products from smaller countries the issues of consumers in the first world and manufacturers in the third world raises questions that perhaps the earlier laws do not adequately deal with.

The focus was on eco-labelling. Withe the advent of genetically modified crops and the aggressive selling of such seeds in third world countries that move to label goods has the potential to damage the limited access to markets that such countries have. The presentation looked at the experience of the rug mark labeling against the use of child labour and the Harkin bill to prohibit goods from countries where child labour is prevalent and their implications for labeling regarding genetically modified crops.

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