In India, new technological developments are making a high impact on the quantity and the quality of the products, but the fact is that the consumers are still the victim of fraudulent practices. Therefore, the Consumer Protection Act,2019 comes in to force from 20 July, with its salient features including the establishment of the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) to promote, protect and enforce the rights of consumers. The Consumer Protection Act, 2019 replaced the old Consumer Protection Act, 1986. The new bill was passed by the president on Aug 06, 2019.
Meaning of Consumer Protection Act, 2019
Consumer Protection Act, 2019 is a law to protect the interests of the consumers. This act was inevitable to resolve a large number of pending consumer complaints in consumer courts across the country. It has ways and means to solve the consumer grievances speedily.
The basic aim of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 to save the rights of the consumers by establishing authorities for timely and effective administration and settlement of consumers’ disputes.
Who Is “Consumer” Under The Consumer Protection Act, 2019?
A particular person who purchases the goods or the services for his or her personal use not for the resale or manufacturing the goods or the services is called a “Consumer”. A consumer has the right to decide whether to purchase the product or not to purchase the product.
Other Laws Regarding Consumers in India
A consumer is a priority in Indian democracy. Indian democracy can’t withstand if the consumer is being cheated in any manner. Various legislations that govern the consumer laws in India, which you must know:
The Drugs (Control) Act, 1950.
The Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954.
The Essential Commodities Act, 1955.
The Consumer Protection Act, 1986.
The Bureau of Indian Standards Act, 1986.
The Monopolies and the Restrictive Trade Practices Act, 1969.
Key features of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019
Some of the key highlights of Consumer Protection Act, 2019 are as follows:
Establishment of Central Consumer Protection Authority: The New Act will establish a new regulatory authority known as the Central Consumer Protection Authority (“Central Authority”), which will have wide powers of investigation including the power of search and seizure. The CCPA will have an investigation wing, headed by a Director-General, which may conduct inquiry or investigation into violation of consumer rights or unfair trade practices (much like the MRTP Commission under erstwhile Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Act, 1969 that had powers to investigate monopolistic or restrictive trade practice). The Central Authority has been granted wide powers to take suo-moto actions, recall products, order reimbursement of the price of goods/services and file class-action suits if a consumer complaint affects more than 1 (one) individual.
Product Liability: A manufacturer or product service provider or product seller will be held responsible to compensate for injury or damage caused by defective product or deficiency in services. The basis for product liability action are as follows:
Deviation from manufacturing specifications.
Not conforming to express warranty.
Failing to contain adequate instructions for correct use.
Service provided-faulty, imperfect or deficient.
Unfair Contracts: Following international jurisprudence, the New Act introduces a unique provision that safeguards consumers against unfair contracts by declaring them to be illegal. An unfair contract covers contracts between manufacturer/ trader and a consumer that causes significant changes in the rights of the consumer that the New Act explicitly recognizes, such as by way of – imposing unreasonable obligation or condition on the consumer which puts consumer to disadvantage; reserving right to unilateral termination (without reasonable cause) or assignment without consent (which is to the detriment of the consumer) in the contract; imposing a penalty for breach which is disproportionate to loss caused etc.
Unfair Trade Practices: The New Act introduces a broader definition of Unfair Trade Practices, which also includes sharing of personal information given by the consumer in confidence, unless such disclosure is made in accordance with the provisions of any other law. The New Act empowers the Central Authority and Consumer Commission (i.e. the judicial fora) to order the perpetrator of such practice to discontinue it.
Penalties for Misleading Advertisement: The New Act introduces, for the first time, a definition of misleading advertisement. It covers false description and guarantee of a product or services. It also covers information that was deliberately concealed from the consumer. If a misleading advertisement is found to be prejudicial to the interest of consumers, then the Central Authority may impose a penalty of up to INR 1,000,000 (Indian Rupees One Million) on a manufacturer. Separately, the New Act has made it a criminal offence to publish false or misleading advertisement for manufacturers and services providers. If found guilty, they could be sentenced to imprisonment for up to 2 (two) years.
Celebrity Endorsement: The New Act fixes liability on endorsers considering that there have been numerous instances in the recent past where consumers have fallen prey to unfair trade practices under the influence of celebrities acting as brand ambassadors. In such cases, it becomes important for the endorser to take the onus and exercise due diligence to verify the veracity of the claims made in the advertisement to refute liability claims. If a misleading advertisement is found to be prejudicial to the interest of consumers, then the Central Authority may impose a penalty of up to INR 1,000,000 (Indian Rupees One Million) on the endorser as well. The Central Authority can also prohibit the endorser of a misleading advertisement from endorsing that particular product or service for a period of up to 1 (one) year. For every subsequent offence, the period of prohibition may extend to 3 (three) years.
E-Commerce Transactions Covered: The New Act has widened the definition of ‘consumer’. The definition now includes any person who buys any goods, whether through offline or online transactions, electronic means, teleshopping, direct selling or multi-level marketing. The earlier Act did not specifically include e-commerce transactions.
Enhancement of Pecuniary Jurisdiction: Like the previous Act, there are three fora for consumer grievance redressal: The District Commission, State Commissioner and National Commission. Each for a has been given a pecuniary limit to entertain consumer complaints. These limits are far higher than the limits set by the previous Act. The District Commission (earlier referred to as District Forum) can now entertain consumer complaints where the value of goods or services paid does not exceed INR 10,000,000 (Indian Rupees Ten Million). The State Commission can entertain disputes where such value exceeds INR 10,000,000 (Indian Rupees Ten Million) but does not exceed INR 100,000,000 (Indian Rupees One Hundred Million), and the National Commission can exercise jurisdiction where such value exceeds INR 100,000,000 (INR One Hundred Million).
E-Filing of Complaints: The New Act provides flexibility to the consumer to file complaints with the jurisdictional consumer forum located at the place of residence or work of the consumer. This is not an option under the previous Act, which mandated filing of the complaint at the place of work or business of the opposite party. The New Act also contains enabling provisions for consumers to file complaints electronically and for hearing and/or examining parties through video-conferencing. This should reduce inconvenience for the consumers, especially the ones who are physically challenged due to ill-health or old age.
Provision for Alternate Dispute Resolution: The New Act provides for mediation as an alternate dispute resolution mechanism, making the process of dispute adjudication simpler and quicker. This will help speedier resolution of disputes and reduce pressure on consumer courts.
We must clear from the study that the consumer has social, economic and ethical dimensions. Each country had a deal with consumer justice. The United Nations have played a vital role in the guidelines which serve the term and the conditions for the protection. The Constitution of India also works on the protection of the consumers.
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CS Urvashi Jain is an associate member of the Institute of Company Secretaries of India. Her expertise, inter-alia, is in regulatory approvals, licenses, registrations for any organization set up in India. She posse’s good exposure to compliance management system, legal due diligence, drafting and vetting of various legal agreements. She has good command in drafting manuals, blogs, guides, interpretations and providing opinions on the different core areas of companies act, intellectual properties and taxation.
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