Consumer Protection Act, 2019

  • Category
    Economy
  • Published
    27th Jul, 2020

Context

The Consumer Protection Act, 2019 came in to force from 20th July 2020. It has replaced the three-decade-old Consumer Protection Act, 1986.

Key Highlights of the Act

  • It will empower consumers and help them in protecting their rights through its various notified Rules and provisions.
  • Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA):
    • It is established to promote, protect, and enforce the rights of consumers.
    • It will be empowered to conduct investigations into violations of consumer rights and institute complaints/prosecution.
    • Order recall of unsafe goods and services
    • Order discontinuance of unfair trade practices and misleading advertisements
    • Impose penalties on manufacturers/endorsers/publishers of misleading advertisements
  • The rules for the prevention of unfair trade practices by e-commerce platforms will also be covered under this Act.
    • Under this act, every e-commerce entity is required to provide information relating to return, refund, exchange, warranty and guarantee, delivery and shipment, modes of payment, etc. including country of origin which are necessary for enabling the consumer to make an informed decision at the pre-purchase stage on its platform.
  • The e-commerce platforms have to acknowledge the receipt of any consumer complaint within forty-eight hours and redress the complaint within one month from the date of receipt under this Act.
  • Simplification of the consumer dispute adjudication process in the consumer commissions:
    • It includes the empowerment of the State and District Commissions to review their orders.
    • Enabling a consumer to file complaints electronically and file complaints in consumer Commissions that have jurisdiction over the place of his residence.
    • Video-conferencing for hearing and deemed admissibility of complaints if the question of admissibility is not decided within the specified period of 21 days.
  • Alternate Dispute Resolution mechanism of Mediation:
    • This will simplify the adjudication process.
    • A complaint will be referred by a Consumer Commission for mediation, wherever scope for early settlement exists and parties agree for it.
    • The mediation will be held in the Mediation Cells to be established under the aegis of the Consumer Commissions.
    • There will be no appeal against settlement through mediation.
  • As per the Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission Rules:
    • There will be no fee for filing cases up to Rs. 5 lakh.
    • There are provisions for filing complaints electronically, credit of amount due to unidentifiable consumers to the Consumer Welfare Fund (CWF).
    • The State Commissions will furnish information to the Central Government quarterly on vacancies, disposal, the pendency of cases, and other matters.
  • Product Liability
    • The New Act introduces the concept of product liability and brings within its scope, the product manufacturer, product service provider, and product seller, for any compensation claim.
  • The Act provides for punishment by a competent court for the manufacture or sale of adulterant/spurious goods.
    • The court may, in case of the first conviction, suspend any licence issued to the person for a period of up to two years, and in case of second or subsequent conviction, cancel the licence.
  • The Central Consumer Protection Council Rules are provided for constitution of the Central Consumer Protection Council:
    • It will be an advisory body on consumer issues, headed by the Union Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution with the Minister of State as Vice Chairperson and 34 other members from different fields.
    • The Council, which has a three-year tenure, will have Minister-in-charge of consumer affairs from two States from each region- North, South, East, West, and North East Region.
    • There is also provision for having working groups from amongst the members for specific tasks.

How is the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 better than Consume Protection Act, 1986?

  • In the previous act i.e Consumer Protection Act, 1986, there was no separate regulator while the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 provides for Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA).
    • Additional swift executive remedies are provided through CCPA.
  • The provision of mediation cells was not there under the act of 1986.
  • There were no provisions related to e-commerce in the previous act, while the 2019 act is extended to e-commerce.
  • In the 2019 Act, the jurisdiction of the Consumer Commissions has also been expanded to allow complaints to be made where the complainant resides or personally works for gain.
    • Previously, in the 1986 Act, it could have been where complaints had to be instituted where the opposite party resides or conducted business, or where the cause of action arose.
  • In the 2019 Act, product liability provision to deter manufacturers and service providers from delivering defective products or deficient services has been added.
  • It the 2019 Act, there is provision for deterrent punishment to check misleading advertisements and adulteration of products

Conclusion

Consumer Protection Act, 1986 provided single-point access to justice, which was also time-consuming. The new act protects buyers not only from traditional sellers but also from the new e-commerce retailers/platforms. This Act will prove a significant tool in protecting consumer rights in the country only if its provisions are implemented on the ground.

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