Tuesday, November 6, 2012


Exploitation of the consumer by some of the manufacturing industry players through out the world through deceptive practices is well known. While some countries have liberal rules that consistently favor the industry there are others who impose rigid rules for preventing the exploitation of the consumer. Most commonly observed strategy for the manufacturers has been to psychologically defraud the consumer through manipulation of size, shape and quantity of contents in a pack. With the help of computer wizards pack size and shape can be manipulated to appear bigger than what they are in reality with contents being same or less than what one would expect. In India biscuit marketing is an example where packs are designed for rounded prices like Rs2, 3, 4, 5 etc and as and when the industry wants to raise the per unit price the quantity in individual pack is reduced mercilessly without raisin the price of the pack while over all appearance looks almost same from the perception of the consumer. During the last 3 years the Rs 2 pack of Glucose biscuit has seen a reduction of contents to the extent of almost 15-20% without the consumer being aware of it in absence of a provision that mandates declaration of the price per a standard unit like kg or liter. This lacuna is sought to be addressed by the recent implementation of the Metrological Rule of 2011 with effect from November 1, 2012. Here are further details on this action by GOI.

'The Government on Thursday in the interest of common consumer said from today onwards 19 commodities of day- to-day use like bread, biscuits, tea etc. can be sold in specified standard packs only. Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution had issued a notice on June 05, 2012 in this regard by amending Legal Metrological (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011.Manufacture, packing or import of these 19 commodities in non-standard packs will invite penal action.The commodities include baby food, weaning food, cereals and pulses, coffee, tea, milk powder, rice, salt, soaps, paint varnish, cement in bags,  mineral water and drinking water,  aerated soft drinks, non-alcoholic beverages,  non-soapy detergents, edible oils vanaspati, ghee and butter oil.  However non-standard packs which have already been manufactured and packed on or before Oct. 31, 2012 and are ready for sale in different retail outlets, have been exempted from penal action. Controllers of Legal Metrology in all the states and UTs have been asked to ensure strict compliance of the order".

The action by GOI is indeed a welcome development for the harried consumers of the country. Though one would have liked to see this rule applied to all consumer products, limiting it to 19 selected commodities can be seen as a beginning. It is surprising that products like sweetmeats and savories are not covered which generate a business of over 10, 000 crore every year. It is here that the manufacturers do maximum manipulation with regard to pack size, shape and content. With nitrogen flushing commonly practiced in pillow pouch packing, large sized packs inflated with nitrogen can confuse the consumer if the quantity within the packet varies for different brands. For example a Rs 5 pack potato chips pack may look big in appearance while it may contain hardly a few pieces of chips. One can only hope that these rules will be made applicable to all processed foods progressively in the coming months.


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