New laws and provisions have been formulated by the government to safeguard the interest of the consumers in the market. In a country like India, consumers are always tagged as kings of the market, but the question is, are the consumers given authorities and powers as a king has over its throne? The answer to this was a big “no” a few years ago, but today, the scenario has been changed, and finally, the king of the market, has been granted the right powers and authorities through the formation of Consumer Protection Act, 2019.
The Consumer Protection Act, 2019 has replaced the three-decades-old Consumer Protection Act, 1986, which mainly eases the procedure to file complaints by the consumers and gives higher protection the consumer dealing in the market.
With this, the new Consumer Protection Act 2019 seeks to revamp the process of settlement and administration of consumer disputes, with strict penalties, including jail term for adulteration and counterfeit products. It will also cover any misleading advertisements by the firms.
Consumer Protection Act, 2019
Before going further, what the new law speaks and implements, its first important to know how the transformation of a “bill” to an “act” took place. The Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Ram Vilas Paswan introduced the “Consumer Protection Bill, 2019” in the Rajya Sabha also known as Upper House of the Parliament on July 8, 2019. The Lok Sabha then passed the bill on July 30, 2019, and was later cleared by the Rajya Sabha on August 6, 2019. On August 9, the bill was signed by the President Ram Nath Kovind. It came into effect on July 20, 2020.
The government of India has notified the country, regarding most of the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 which will come to effect on July 20, 2020. To keep the consumers happy and in focus, the newly implemented law will ensure that complaints can be lodged at a district or state consumer commission from the site where the complainant resides rather than from where the service or product was bought.
The provisions which have come up by the government covers consumer protection councils, mediation, consumer dispute redressal forum, the liability of products or services, the penalty for manufacturing, distributing, selling, etc. products which contain adulterant or spurious goods.
The new laws of the Act will allow the consumers to drag to court if manufacturers, distributors or sellers are found dealing with the adulterated or spurious goods. The consumers can also lodge complaints in consumer claiming compensation for any counterfeit products or the wrong ones from the manufacturers.
Under situations where the consumer is not injured, the court can give compensation of Rs. 1 lakh to the consumers or award six months of Jail under the provisions laid down by the Consumer Protection Act, 2019. In cases where the consumer is injured, the fine to the seller, manufacturer, or the distributor could be upto Rs. 5 lakh and upto 7 years in jail. If in a situation, the consumer dies, then a minimum fine of Rs 10 Lakh and seven years in jail can be imposed, which may be extended to life imprisonment. Any provisions regarding direct selling or online services are yet to be made by the government, which may come in the next two or three weeks. The provisions relating to the constitution of an apex Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) at the national level also remain to be notified by the government.
The CCPA will make interventions to prevent the consumer from unfair trade practices. The agency can also initiate class action, which will include enforcing recalls, refunds and returns of products. The bill also promotes simplified dispute resolution process, which also has provision for mediation and e-filing of the cases. For mediation, there will be fixed timelines that will be released by the ministry. E-filing of cases will take place, and the requirement of a lawyer to produce will also be reduced.
Misleading advertisements is one of the most followed things by the common people. We often tend to fall for the advertisements that are fancy and exaggerating. The new bill introduced carries a provision for jail term and fine for manufactures. However, the celebrities who are a part of such advertisements will not be put behind bars, though there are chances that they will be banned if something wrong is endorsed by them, which is misleading. A major change in the bill is the formulation of product liability. For the first time, the product liability is introduced where the manufacturer or the service provider or the product seller will be liable to compensate the injured consumer for the defective product or deficiency in services.
The consumer commissions at district, state and national level will entertain complaints, and on the other hand, the CCPA will be able to take suo moto action and forward cases to National Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission for class action lawsuit where a large number of consumers are affected.
The relationship of a seller and a buyer is very fragile and therefore needs proper protection which safeguards the interest of both the parties. To give the consumer, the title of King, it's important to implement such laws and policies, which makes sure that every consumer in the market is the decider and the king. The addition of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019, in the already existing acts is proof that India is developing and such laws, will help to protect the relationship between a buyer and seller.