The Lok Sabha has passed the Consumer Protection Bill 2018 that will strengthen the rights of the consumers.
- The Bill along with strengthening consumer rights provides a mechanism to address the grievances of the consumers regarding defects in goods and deficiency in services.
- Appropriate authorities will be set up for timely and effective administration and settlement of disputes.
- The Bill replaces the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.
Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission
- The Bill proposes to set up a Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, and district, state and national level forums to adjudicate consumer complaints.
- A Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) will be set up to promote, protect and enforce consumer rights.
- The CCPA will prevent consumer detriment arising from unfair trade practices. It also has the power to initiate class action, and recall, refund and return products.
- There is no such authority now to act against unfair trade practices. The CCPA will change that.
- The CCPA will act immediately on any complaints filed by the consumer.
- The Bill also proposes action against misleading advertisements. Action will be against the adviser and not on the media through which the ad is published.
- If any harm is done to the consumers on account of deficient services or faulty products, there will be product liability action.
- There is also a provision for post-litigation stage mediation.
Penalties On Celebrities
- The bill has provisions to penalise celebrities on misleading advertisements.
- For the first offence, a one-year ban on endorsements and Rs. 10 lakh fine.
- For the second offence, Rs. 50 lakh fine and a three-year ban on endorsements.
- For manufacturers and services providers, the fine for the first offence is Rs. 10 lakhs and a jail;-term of up to two years.
- For any subsequent offences, Rs. 50 lakh fine and a jail term of 5 years.
- In case of adulteration, the Bill proposes a lifetime of jail.
- While discussing the Bill, the members of the opposition raised some questions over the bill.
- There was a question on different testing parameters in different states and the Bill is not addressing that issue. For example, in the case of an instant noodles brand, different state government labs gave different test reports. While some banned the product, the others continued its sale.
- Questions were raised over surrogate advertising for which there is no provision in the bill.
- A question was raised over how the district consumer forums will be formed and how will they dispose the existing cases.
Questions apart, the Consumer Protection Bill, 2019 will definitely protect the rights of the consumers. It will make the manufacturers and service providers desist from providing defective goods and services. The dispute redressal mechanism is also in favour of the consumers. The highlight of the Bill is the CCPA. When established, it will go a long way in protecting the rights of the consumers.