Advertisements tend to influence consumers’ choice to a large extent. All products claim to be better and more effective than the other, leaving buyers to fall for them.
In this scenario, the notice of Food Safety and Standard Authority of India (FSSAI) to 19 food products for making misleading and deceptive claims without any studies to substantiate them, would rather make people rethink their beliefs.
FSSAI has sent notices to health drinks Horlicks, Bournvita, Boost, cooking oil Saffola, Today Premium Tea, Maggie Multi-grainz noodles, Kelloggs Extra Muesli and others. Metrolife talks to consumer rights activists and buyers on the issue as these are the products that make way to almost every household.
While activists feel that government consumer redressal forums are neither capable nor willing to tackle the problem, owing to their political agendas, buyers continue to remain at the receiving end.
Rajeev Yadav, a member of Supreme Court Bar Association and national president of Adhikaar — the rights path, says false claims regarding food products is a very serious matter and a concerns people of all age groups.
“People can approach consumer courts but there is no point doing that too as the decisions given are very weak. In the US, the fines imposed by consumer courts are huge. Here, district consumer forums and state consumer disputes redressal commissions give judgements which suit the government agenda,” he says
“The judgements made by these bodies are weak. That is why multinational companies easily get away despite deficiency in services and unfair trade practices. The Consumer Protection Act has got all clauses and is good enough but is not implemented strongly,” he adds.
Abhishek Kaushik of Consumers Forum, which works for Consumer Protection Act, 1986, says their experience has been that small companies cooperate, but big and multinational companies are not scared of the law.
“The products to which FSSAI notice has been sent belong to big brands. They spend crores on ads but when it comes to giving compensation, the amount gets shrunk. Thanks to our implementation machinery. It is better if people use their mind for buying things instead of trusting the commercials.”
However, for buyers, advertisements end up becoming a major criteria which help them choose from countless products and services. Many of them are unaware of such notices being sent to the companies whose products they rely blindly.
Rita Sharma, a Delhi-based homemaker, says, “I always thought if companies are making such claims and that too through TV commercials, there would be some truth in them. We simply go by what they promise without noticing the ingredients. Anyway we, as consumers don’t have any other option than buying these products.”
Ruma, a professional and mother of two schoolchildren, says, “I rely on health drinks which claim to help increase height and in overall development of kids. We are no experts and simply trust such claims. If what they show in ads is far from truth, why should I buy them?”