Consumer Protection Act, 2019

Author: Dolan Saha, 3rd Year, B.A LL.B(H), KIIT School of Law, Bhuwaneshwar. The article has been written by the author while pursuing the internship programme with us. Introduction to the Bill The Indian Parliament on 6th August 2019, passed the Consumer Protection Bill and received the assent of the President on 9th August 2019 and it thereby getting published in The Official Gazette. It repealed the existing Consumer Protection Act,1986 in order to keep up with the changing needs and crisis faced by the consumers in this digital era. With the advent of digitalization, the economic functions began adapting and thereby availability and accessibility of goods and services on virtual platforms increased. Habits of consumers also changed, with the availability of a plethora of options for any goods or services on digital platforms. But this has a darker side as well, which is an increase in fraudulent activities, misleading products and lack of accountability of sellers. This led to dissatisfied consumers who failed to receive relief or compensation under this existing Consumer Protection Act, and failed significantly to fulfill the targeted objective of protecting the interests of the consumers in the digital times hence updating the existing Act[1] and increasing the ambit of protection which consumers can enjoy with changing times became necessary. The motto of this Bill is to provide advanced protection to the interests of the consumers. Under this Bill the consumers are treated the utmost priority and provided with easier remedies and hence sellers should curb unethical activities which contribute to customer dissatisfaction. Changes Introduced by the Bill ● This Bill has broadened the meaning of the word ‘consumer’ including any person who purchases goods from online or offline businesses, also including other digital transactions like teleshopping and other e-commerce platforms which were not there in the previous Act[2]. Also the definition of ‘Goods’ has been altered to include ‘food’ which is as per the definition given in Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 and the definition of ‘services’ include telecommunication service which includes data and internet services. ● Filing online complaints is the new privilege provided to the consumers to register complaints against sellers online and the hearing of the parties through the mode of video conferencing. Also in this bill one could easily file a complaint with the Jurisdictional Consumer Protection Forum where his or her residence is located rather than at the Jurisdictional Consumer Protection forum where the address of the seller is situated. ● Pecuniary jurisdiction has been increased significantly in this new Act. The District Consumer Protection Forum has the jurisdiction now to register complaints where the net value for goods or services does not exceed Rs. 10,000,000. The State Consumer Protection Forum can entertain complaints which exceed Rs. 10,000,000 and the National Consumer Protection Commission can allow disputes where the value of the goods or services so paid is more than 100,000,000. ● This new act brought in the idea of product liability which includes product manufacturer, service provider and the details of the seller of the product. The meaning of the word ‘product seller’ has been broadened and within this new meaning comes every person who is associated with the sale of goods. It includes within its scope the middlemen of e-commerce websites who may not directly be the seller but in any way participating in the sale of goods. Even the liability of the producers has been increased. However the product seller cannot be held liable if the goods have been tampered by the consumer. ● Formation of the Central Consumer Protection Authority under this Bill[3] will ensure stricter protection of interest of the consumers, which includes the investigation department which has the ability to take suo-moto cognizance, fix the pricing of the goods and services, recall faulty goods and check on fraud platforms. Class action suits can also be filed by this body if the seller frauds more than one consumer. ● The scope of Unfair Trade Practices has been broadened includes sharing of any private information of the consumer violating the confidence of the consumer. Introduction for penalties for misleading advertisement has been made in the new Consumer Protection Bill[4]. The Central Consumer Protection Authority might impose a penalty up to Rs. 1,000,000 or imprisonment up to 2 years for putting up false and misleading advertisements. Also the fine and punishment will be extended if there occurs subsequent offences up to Rs. 5,000,000 and imprisonment up to 5 years and also prohibit the offender from making any advertisement for that product up to 1 year. ● A provision for alternate dispute resolution has also been made to speed up the process of addressing the grievances of consumers and also to reduce the burden on Consumer protection forums which have many impending cases to resolve. Comparison between the Consumer Protection Act,1986 and Consumer Protection Bill ,2019. The Definition of ‘consumer’ did not include those who purchased from e-commerce platforms in the older Act[5] however is included in the this Bill[6] in accordance with the changing times thereby providing a better protection to the consumers also along with considering food as ‘goods’ owing to the introduction of multiple food delivery applications and telecom as ‘services’ to ensure these digital service providers do not escape liability. The new bill format of filing a complaint by consumers has been made online which is harassment free and simple as opposed to the existing Act[7] where a complaint could be filed offline and only in the jurisdiction of the seller. This ensures larger accountability of fraudulent sellers. Increase in Pecuniary Jurisdiction has been introduced in the new Consumer Protection Bill, 2019 to ensure easier determination of jurisdiction as opposed to the Act of 1986[8] where the amount for pecuniary jurisdiction was lesser. In the Consumer Protection Bill 2019 punitive measures have been taken for misleading advertisements which were not there in the existing Act[9] which will create an onus on sellers to advertise accurately. Also introduction of the Central Consumer Protection Authority ensures intervention in fields where the consumers cannot act like unfair pricing or other fraudulent activities of sellers. Establishment of the concept of ‘product liability’ ensures the sellers, the manufactures and the middlemen or the platform is held equally liable in the Consumer Protection Bill,2019 which was absent in the existing Consumer Protection Act. Introduction of choice of Alternate Dispute Resolution helps swifter dealings of cases which would otherwise take a long time to get resolved in Consumer Forums. Analysis The Consumer Protection Bill 2019 is an essential reform in the fields of consumer protection laws since the existing Act fails to recognize the changing purchasing habits and digitization of the market, surge in number of sellers and subsequently increase of fraudulent and malicious activities to hamper the interest of the Consumers. The new bill so passed recognizes various contemporary aspects of the market such as online food delivery applications or increase in purchases from e-commerce websites. The broadening of various definitions in this bill will help consumers get their grievances which are also changing with times addressed and hence resolved. The conceiving of the Central Consumer Protection Authority was remarkable which can intervene in various matters and resolve them accordingly. Even the filing of the complaints have become much less cumbersome as the consumer can file complaints online thereby saving time and hassle. The introduction of punitive measures for false advertising will curb the various false advertising tactics which some Seller uses to lure the customer. It will ensure the product will meet the customer’s expectations and prevent dissatisfaction of the consumer. In this bill sufficient measures have been taken to duly fulfill the motto of protection of interest of consumers which the Consumer Protection Act,1986 failed to achieve. Conclusion In a way we all are consumers of the economy. The passing of this Bill leads to an overall positive impact on maintaining the best interest of the consumers in this age of Globalization and digitization. With the increase of choices, availability of easy transactions and online purchases of goods and services this Consumer Protection Bill 2019 has substantially increased the scope of protection and provision according to the purchasing habit of this century. The Parliament recognized this need of the hour for ensuring the interest of the consumers and passed this bill which formed the Consumer Protection Act, 2019. However it is upto the consumers to be more alert and make informed choices and if violated in any way while purchasing utilize this Act to its fullest extent. REFERENCES: [1] Consumer Protection Act,1986, No.68, Acts of Parliament,1986(India) [2] ibid. [3] Consumer Protection Bill,2019,Bill No. 144 of 2019,Acts of Parliament, 2019 (India). [4] supra note 1. [5] supra note 1. [6] supra note 3. [7] supra note 1. [8] supra note 1. [9] supra note 1. DISCLAIMER:Views and opinions as expressed in the Research Articles are solely of the author and any member of the core team of the website shall not be liable for the same.

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