Author: Abhishek Upadhyay, Amity Law School.
Customers are the most important visitor on our premises, they are not dependent on us, we are dependent on them. They are not an interruption in our work. They are the purpose of it. They are not outsiders in our business. They are part of it; we are not doing them a favor by serving them. They are doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so. – Mahatma Gandhi
The popular tagline of JagoGrahakJagohas got a major boost as the Lok Sabha has passed the Consumer Protection Bill, 2018 replacing the earlier bill of 1986.The present bill aims to answer all the questions which may create ambiguity because of the presence of the previous bill.
The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 implements the rights of the consumers at the zonal, state and national level depending upon the amount.The act also recognizes defects and unfair practices which ultimately is a loss for the consumer. Over recent years there have been certain challenges faced by the government such as unawareness of the act, time taking redressal methods. The Hon’ble Vice President Venkaiah Naidu also narrated his experience where he was duped by a false advertisement of weight loss and got into the trap of marketing gimmicks. All these struggles led to the amendment of the earlier bill and subsequently gave way to the Consumer Protection Bill, 2018.
The key highlights of the Act are as follows:
1.Consumer Complaint Redressal
- The Bill establishes consumer courts to hear issues and complaints on matters like (i) A defect in goods (ii) Unfair or restrictive trade practices (iii) Excessive pricing knowingly selling goods or providing services that do not meet adequate norms and (v) Product Liability.
- These Commissions /Courts will be set up at District, State, and National level with financial jurisdiction upto Rs 1 Crore, Rs 1 Crore to 10 Crore and above 10 Crore respectively.
- Appeals from the District Commission will be addressed by the State Commission and the appeal of State Commission will be looked at by the National Commission
- The main motive of all the commission will be to dispose of all the disputes and complaints within three months of filing a complaint if the complaint does not involve the analysis and testing of the product. If there is the process of testing and analyzing then the dispute should be disposed of within five months.
- The District commission will contain one president and two members. State Commission and National Commission will contain a president and 4 members. The period, qualifications, appointment, and removal will all be decided by the President
- The bill also directs the establishment of mediation cells. Mediation cell will be the helping body for the above commission and the commissions can refer where it feels that there is a requirement of the third party in the matter.
- Bodies established under the Bill
- Central Consumer Protection Authority: The bill establishes CCPA to develop, safeguard and enforce the rights of the consumer. This will be headed by the Chief Commissioner and comprise other commissioners as well. The basic function of the authority will be to issue safety notices, pass orders to recall goods, prevent unfair and restrictive trade practices and reimburse the loss incurred. It may also file complaints before the Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission.
- Consumer Protection Council: The bill establishes CPCs at the district, state, and national level. These are the bodies which will advise on promotion and protection of consumer rights. Under the Council, the minister in charge of consumer affairs will be the head.
One of the notable addition in the bill is the attempt to acknowledge the problems faced by the consumers on e-commerce websites. These problems can be anything from defect I products to false and misleading information provided by the website about a particular product. New provisions have been added to the bill which includes terms like e-commerce, false advertisement, electric service provider and endorsement.
The definition of “consumer” also inculcates those who avail services online through e-commerce websites. An explanation to Section 2 (7), which defines a “consumer”, lays down:
“(b) the expressions “buy any goods” and “hires or avails any services” includes offline or online transactions through electronic means or by teleshopping or direct selling or multi-level marketing“
- If the person does not go in accordance with the orders of the commission, he may face imprisonment upto three years or a fine not less than Rs 25000 or both.
- If the person does not comply with an order issued by the CCPA, he may face imprisonment of upto six months or a fine of upto Rs 20 Lakh, o both
- If someone is misleading the general public by putting up false advertisement, he/she will be imposed with a fine of up to Rs 10 Lakh. For a continuing offense, the fine will be extended to Rs 50 Lakhs
- If any person is found selling, manufacturing, storing, importing any adulterated product then there will be a fine of Rs one lakh if no injury is caused and a fine of three lakhs along with imprisonment if the injury is caused. In the case of grievous hurt or death, a penalty of five lakh and 10 ten lakh with imprisonment is imposed respectively.
- If any person is found selling, manufacturing, storing, importing any spurious goods, then a fine of three lakhs along with imprisonment if the injury is caused. In the case of grievous hurt or death, a penalty of five lakh and 10 ten lakh with imprisonment to life is imposed respectively.
As per the Bill, product liability refers to the responsibility of the manufacturer or producer of the consumer product when it comes to the safety and quality of the product. This would include an obligation to compensate for any harm caused by a defective product or a deficiency in service.
As per Section 84 (2), a product manufacturer would be liable in a product liability action even if he proves that he was not negligent or fraudulent in making the express warranty of a product.
As per Section 86, the product seller would be liable if:
- he exercised substantial control over manufacturing, processing, labeling etc. of the product
- he altered or modified product which contributed to the harm
- the express warranty made by him fails
- the manufacturer is not known or cannot be reached
- there is failure reasonable care
The Consumer Protection Bill 2018 is surely the bill for the aam aadmi as it protects the interest of the general public at the market level. It also ensures that people get the desired quality product and should be satisfied with the services received. But as we know that there are two sides to a coin and the other side of the bill is with the presence of some flaws. These flaws are that the consumer protection bill does not comment upon the liability of the e-commerce websites which are trending nowadays. Another flaw related to the bill is that the bill does not comment upon the qualifications of the heads of the different commission which may violate the separation of powers.
These are some of the flaws which should be addressed as quickly as possible for the benefit of the consumer as it is the consumer who is the king and whose rights should be protected and preserved.