The Consumer Protection Act, 2019, received the President’s affirmation on August 9, 2019, after it received the nod from both houses, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha on July 30, 2019, and August 6, 2019, respectively.
“The Consumer Protection Act 2019 will empower consumers via rules relating to Consumer Protection Councils, Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions, Mediation, Product Liability & punishment for manufacture/sale of products having adulterant/spurious goods,” the Ministry of Consumer Affairs said on Monday.
The Act came into force on Monday, replacing the old Consumer Protection Act of 1986. This refreshed version aims to simplify the consumer dispute adjudication process in the consumer commissions, which include, among others, empowerment of the State and District Commissions to review their own orders, enabling a consumer to file complaints electronically and file complaints in consumer Commissions that have jurisdiction over the place of his residence, videoconferencing for hearing and deemed admissibility of complaints if the question of admissibility is not decided within the specified period of 21 days.
Establishment of the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA)
While briefing the media about the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 through video conference, the Union Minister for Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution Ram Vilas Paswan said that CCPA 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. Paswan further said that the rules for the prevention of unfair trade practice by e-commerce platforms will also be covered under this Act. The gazette notification for establishment of the Central Consumer Protection Authority and rules for prevention of unfair trade practice in e-commerce are under publication.
The New Consumer Protection Act will also cover E-commerce
Paswan further said 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, grievance redressal mechanism, payment methods, the security of payment methods, charge-back options, etc. including country of origin necessary for enabling the consumer to make an informed decision at the pre-purchase stage on its platform. He said that e-commerce platforms have to acknowledge the receipt of any consumer complaint within 48 hours and redress the complaint within one month from the date of receipt under this Act. He further added that 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 claim for compensation.
Here are the key highlights of the New Consumer Protection Act 2019
- E-commerce platforms will now have to acknowledge the receipt of any consumer complaint within 48 hours and redress the complaint within a month from the date of receipt.
- A significant change that under the earlier Act, complaints could be initiated only in the place where the transaction took place. But now, a consumer can institute a complaint from where he resides.
- Ram Vilas Paswan, Union Minister for Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution, said this new Act will empower consumers and help them in protecting their rights through its various notified Rules and provisions like Consumer Protection Councils, Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions, Mediation, Product Liability and punishment for manufacture or sale of products containing spurious goods.
- He said 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. He further added that 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 claim for compensation.
- The consumers can now file a complaint at the closest district or state Consumer Commission instead of travelling to the location where the services were sold.
- If a consumer has not suffered injuries, the guilty/liable business can be penalized with up to 6 months of a jail term or fined as high as Rs 1 lakh. In case a consumer is injured, the penalties can go up to Rs 5 lakh or up to seven years in jail.
- The death of a consumer due to unfair trade practice will make the culpable business person pay a minimum of Rs 5 lakh and at least seven years jail term, which can be extended into life imprisonment, depending on the gravity of the complaint.
- An Alternate Dispute Resolution mechanism of Mediation has been provided to simplify the judgement process.
- In this, 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 upto ₹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 Central Government quarterly on vacancies disposal, the pendency of cases and other matters.
- The New Act also introduces the concept of product liability and brings within its scope, the product manufacturer, product service provider and product seller, for any claim for compensation. The Act provides for punishment by a competent court for 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 a second or subsequent conviction, cancel the licence.
- The new Act, besides general rules, will encompass Central Consumer Protection Council Rules, Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission Rules, Appointment of President & Members in State/District Commission Rules, Mediation Rules, Model Rules and E-Commerce Rules and Consumer Commission Procedure Regulations, Mediation Regulations and Administrative control over State Commission & District Commission Regulations.
Paswan said that the Central Consumer Protection Council Rules are provided for the constitution of the Central Consumer Protection Council, 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 NER. There is also provision for having working groups from amongst the members for specific tasks.
Paswan said that the New Consumer Protection Act 2019 will prove a significant tool in protecting consumer rights in the country. The old Consumer Protection Act, 1986, provided single-point access to justice, which was time-consuming. The new act has been introduced after many amendments to provide protection to buyers not only from traditional sellers but also from the new e-commerce retailers/platforms. He said that this Act will prove a significant tool in protecting consumer rights in the country.