New Delhi, July 20 (IANS) Union Minister for Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution Ram Vilas Paswan said, here on Monday, the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 would empower consumers and protect their rights. The Act came into force on Monday.
Paswan said it would protect consumers’ rights through various notified rules and provisions, like consumer protection councils, consumer disputes redressal commissions, mediation, product liability, and punish manufacture or sale of products containing adulterant/spurious goods.
Speaking to the media via video link, the Minister said the Act included setting up of the central consumer protection authority (CCPA) to promote, protect and enforce the consumers’ rights.
The CCPA will be empowered to conduct investigations into violations of consumer rights and institute complaints/prosecution, order recall of unsafe goods and services, discontinuance of unfair trade practices and misleading advertisements, impose penalties on manufacturers/endorsers/publishers of misleading advertisements.
Paswan said unfair trade practice by e-commerce platforms would also be covered under this Act. The gazette notification for setting up the CCPA and rules for prevention of unfair trade practice in e-commerce were under publication, said the Consumer Affairs Secretary.
The Minister said under the Act every e-commerce entity was required to provide information on return, refund, exchange, warranty and guarantee, delivery and shipment, modes of payment, grievance redressal mechanism, payment methods, security of payment methods and charge-back options. They must include the country of origin of goods, which was necessary to enable the consumer to make an informed decision at the pre-purchase stage, he added.
The e-commerce platforms will have to acknowledge receipt of any consumer complaint within 48 hours and redress that within a month from the date of receipt under this Act. The Act also introduces the concept of product liability and brings within its scope, product manufacturer, product service provider and product seller, for any compensation claim.
It provides for simplifying the consumer dispute adjudication process in the consumer panels, which include empowerment of the state and district commissions to review their own orders, enabling consumer to file e-complaints in consumer panels 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 21 days.
“An alternate dispute resolution mechanism of mediation has been provided in the Act. A complaint will be referred by a consumer commission for mediation, wherever scope for early settlement exists and parties agree to it. 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,” Paswan said.
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 Consumer Welfare Fund (CWF). The state commissions will furnish information to central government on a quarterly basis on vacancies, disposal, pendency of cases and other matters.
The Act also introduces the concept of product liability and brings within its scope, product manufacturer, service provider and seller for any claim for compensation. It provides for punishment by a competent court for manufacture or sale of adulterant/spurious goods. The court may, in case of first conviction, suspend any licence issued to the person for a period of up to 2 years, and in case of second or subsequent conviction, cancel the licence.
Under the Act, besides general rules, there are 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.
The central consumer protection council rules are provided for 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.
Paswan said in earlier Consumer Protection Act, 1986 a single-point access to justice was given, which was also time-consuming. But the new Act had been introduced after many amendments to provide protection to buyers not only from traditional sellers but also from the new e-commerce retailers/platforms.
This Act would prove a significant tool in protecting consumer rights in the country, the Minister said.