IG Sanjay Pandey, who is Controller of Legal Metrology (Weights & Measures), says, a short delivery, excess demand and overpricing are considered offences against the society and lead to penalties if consumers file a complaint
If consumer gets short delivery of the commodity or thing than it is paid for or contracted for, similarly in the services also, it amounts to an offence. However, not many consumers know about remedies available to them to get justice. Such consumers can easily file a complaint before the Legal Metrology Organization (weights and measures).
Speaking at a seminar organised by Moneylife Foundation in Mumbai, Inspector General (IG) Sanjay Pandey, who is Controller of the Legal Metrology Organization, said, "Due to improved lifestyle of the people, consumer protection movement is now going on in an aggressive manner. Therefore, it is not only just and fair to enforce the provisions strictly but is absolutely essential to enforce the provisions of the Acts and Rules in the interest of common consumers."
"We are looking into three areas. One is how builders sell property on square foot basis and how registrars are registering it on sq ft basis. Second is defining call duration standards for telecom companies. How these companies measure the second? It is certified by the authorised government agency. Third area is digital measurement. How the companies are selling GB or MB and who and how it is certified? Soon you will see some action in these areas," he added.
The main role of the Organization is to protect the consumers' interest by surprise visits or inspections at Traders premises, packers, importers, packaging units and industries to verify the accuracy of weights and measures as well as to check the net contents effected by them. A short delivery, excess demand and overpricing are offences against the society. The legal metrology organization keeps a strict vigil on the offenders and enforces the provisions of law by firm hands.
Mr Pandey said, "Consumers can file complaints regarding charging higher than maximum retail price (MRP), using non-standard weights, weighing lesser than actual weight, and MRTP violations at our office. We have set up helpline 022-22886666 and consumers can even send us an e-mail to [email protected]
Deterrent penal provisions are prescribed for errant traders and other persons under the Legal Metrology Act. Such offenders are brought to book and punished accordingly. There is a provision in the Act to compound prosecution cases at the department level if the offender has committed the said offence for the first time. Under such circumstances the Authorities impose compounding fees upon the offender and the matter is settled at the department level. However, if the option is not exercised by the offender to get it compounded at the department level, then the case is sent to the Judicial Magistrate First Class (JMFC)/Metropolitan Court and then it attracts the provision of Criminal Procedure Code (Cr.P.C.) as it is treated as criminal case.
According to Mr Pandey, even builders who are selling properties using square feet instead of metres for measurement can be booked under the Act. "This is because, in 1956, the Indian government passed a Standards of Weights and Measures system to introduce metric system based on Punjab Act. The metric system began in October 1958, making metric weight mandatory by October 1960, and the metric measures mandatory by April 1962 banning all other systems."
"Puranik Builders published an advertisement that promised 45 sq feet free. We then issued a notice to them. Now the advertisement says 45 smiles instead of 45 sq feet. But let me make it clear again that no builder can sell property on square foot basis as it is illegal. Under the metric system it can be sold only on square metre basis. We have written to MHADA and are gathering more information on this," he added.
While buying any pre-packaged commodity, Mr Pandey said, consumers need to check mandatory declarations. This includes...
a) Name and address of the manufacturer or packer or importer.
b) Generic name of the commodity.
c) Net quantity in terms of standard units of weight or measure or number.
d) Month and year in which a commodity is manufactured or packed or imported.
e) Retail sale price of package in the form of maximum retail price inclusive of all taxes or in the form of MRP Rs...... inclusive of all taxes.
f) For complaint redressal, every package shall have name, address, telephone number and email if available, of the person of the company.
Several times, consumers are charged more than the MRP of a product. Many times, there is an alteration in the MRP printed on the package. Under the Act, both sale of packaged commodity more than the MRP printed (overpricing) and alteration in the MRP printed are offenses, said Mr Pandey. "Even MRP printed without mentioning 'inclusive of all taxes' amounts to an offence and consumers approach our department for all these violations. We will immediately initiate appropriate action," he added.
According to Mr Pandey, to avoid the legal scanner, many packaged water suppliers are selling bottles with higher MRP printed to 5-star hotels and malls. Sometimes, they even use a separate brand name for these water bottles, which are sold only at these places. “Since they sell at MRP, we cannot initiate any action. However, if they charge more than the MRP printed, we can certainly initiate an action against them,” the chief of Legal Metrology Organization added.
Earlier in October and also in this month, the Organisation, headed by Mr Pandey conducted several raids on companies, dealers and owners of CNG and LPG filling stations. It was found that over 20 CNG and LPG filling operators across Mumbai, Thane and Navi Mumbai, never bothered to use the dispensers (regular pumps) approved by the government.
“Our department realised that the dispensers used by these owners and dealers were not fit enough to serve the consumers and they could possibly swindle them. Hence, we decided to conduct surprise checks and the results were surprising. Our department has seized 20 dispensers and disciplinary process has been initiated against the dealers in the court of law,” Mr Pandey had said at that time.
The Legal Metrology Organisation was launched on 6 June 2007 by former chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh to protect the consumers’ interest by surprise visits or inspections at the traders’ premises, packers, importers, packaging units and industries to verify the accuracy of weights and measures as well as to check the net contents supplied by them.
Indian weights and measures (From Wikipedia)
Before the introduction of the Metric system, one may divide the history of Indian systems of measurement into three main periods: the pre-Akbar's period, the period of the Akbar system, and the British colonial period.
During pre-Akbar period, weights and measure system varied from region to region, commodity to commodity, and rural to urban areas. The weights were based on the weight of various seeds (specially the wheat berry and Ratti) and lengths were based on the length of arms and width of fingers. Akbar realized a need for a uniform system. He elected the barley corn. Unfortunately, this did not replace the existing system. Instead, it just added another system.
British entered India as traders. They accepted barleycorn as a unit 'grain' for weighing gold. They minted coins using wheat berry as the standard. Eventually, British introduced their own system for weighing gold (Troy ounce), commodities (Pound/Cwt/Ton). Now, the roads had Furlong and Mile markers. In 1939, Government of India passed the Standards of Weights Act that came into effect in 1942. This allowed Tola/Seer/Maund system to coexist with Pound/Cwt/Ton system.
In 1941, the Punjab Weight and Measures act provided a sense of uniformity. In 1956, Government of India passed a Standards of Weights and Measures system to introduce metric system based on Punjab Act. The metric would begin in October 1958, making metric weight mandatory by October 1960, and the metric measures mandatory by April 1962.