Context: Salient features of the Consumer Protection Bill, 2019.
More in news:
- The bill was passed by the Lok Sabha on July 30.
- The bill was passed in Rajya Sabha on 6 August without referring to select committee.
The Consumer Protection Bill, 2019 was introduced in Lok Sabha by the Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution. The Bill replaces the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.
Aim of the bill: The bill aims at protecting the interests of consumers by establishing authorities for timely and effective administration and settlement of consumers’ dispute.
Definition of the consumer: A consumer is defined as a person who buys any good or avails a service. It does not include a person who obtains a good for resale or a good or service for commercial purpose. It covers transactions through all modes including offline and online through electronic means, teleshopping, multi-level marketing or direct selling.
Rights of consumers: Six consumer rights have been defined in the Bill, these are:
- The right to be protected against the marketing of goods, products or services which are hazardous to life and property.
- The right to be informed about the quality, quantity, potency, purity, standard and price of goods, products or services, as the case may be, so as to protect the consumer against unfair trade practices.
- The right to be assured of access to a variety of goods, products or services at competitive prices.
- The right to be heard and to be assured that consumer’s interests will receive due consideration.
- The right to seek redressal against unfair trade practice or restrictive trade practices or unscrupulous exploitation of consumers.
- The right to consumer awareness.
Salient Features of the Bill:
- Central Consumer Protection Authority: The central government will set up a Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) to promote, protect and enforce the rights of consumers. It will regulate matters related to violation of consumer rights, unfair trade practices, and misleading advertisements.
- Functions of CCPA:
- issue safety notices
- pass orders to recall goods, prevent unfair and restrictive trade practices
- inquiring into violations of consumer rights, investigating and launching prosecution at the appropriate forum
- reimburse purchase price paid
- impose penalties for false and misleading advertisements.
- It may also file complaints before the Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions.
- Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission: CDRCs will be set up at the district, state, and national levels. A consumer can file a complaint with CDRCs in relation to:
- unfair or restrictive trade practices
- defective goods or services
- overcharging or deceptive charging
- The offering of goods or services for sale which may be hazardous to life and safety.
- Jurisdiction of CDRC:
- District Commission: Up to Rs1 crore
- State Commission: Between Rs1 crore and Rs 10 crore
- National Commission: Above Rs.10 crore
- Product liability: Product liability means the liability of a product manufacturer, service provider or seller to compensate a consumer for any harm or injury caused by a defective good or deficient service.
- The Basis for product liability action will be:
- Manufacturing defect
- Design defect
- Deviation from manufacturing specifications
- Not conforming to express warranty
- Failing to contain adequate instruction for correct use
- Services provided are faulty, imperfect or deficient
- Ease of approaching consumer commission:
- Filing from place of residence
- Videoconferencing for hearing
Comparison of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 with the Consumer Protection Bill, 2019:
Benefit to Consumers:
- Presently Consumer only have a single point of access to justice, which is time consuming. Additional swift executive remedies are proposed in the bill through Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA)
- Deterrent punishment to check misleading advertisements and adulteration of products
- Product liability provision to deter manufacturers and service providers from delivering defective products or deficient services
- Ease of approaching Consumer Commission and Simplification of Adjudication process
- Scope for early disposal of cases through mediation
- Provision for rules for new age consumer issues: e-commerce & direct selling
Conclusion:The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 was enacted to provide for better protection of the interests of consumers and for the purpose of making provision for establishment of consumer protection councils and other authorities for the settlement of consumer disputes, etc. Although, the working of the consumer dispute redressal agencies has served the purpose to a considerable extent under the said Act, the disposal of cases has not been fast due to various constraints. The proposed Bill provides for the establishment of an executive agency – Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA). This fills an institutional void in the regulatory regime extant. The new Bill seeks to take care of product liabilities and service, as well as action against publishers and celebrities of misleading advertisements.