The Consumer Protection Act 2019 provides a mechanism for redressal of consumer complaints such as overpricing, deficiency in services, quality of products, misleading advertisements or unfair and restrictive practices of a seller or trader.
The government plans to safeguard consumers’ rights by setting up the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA).
Rights of consumers
Right to safety:
- The right to be safeguarded against the marketing of goods and delivery of services that are hazardous to life and property exists for consumers who use many different commodities and services in their daily lives.
- Producers must adhere to all applicable safety standards and regulations to the letter and spirit. Pressure cookers, for example, should be equipped with safety valves.
Right to be informed:
- Consumers have a right to be informed about the specifics of the goods and services that they purchase (for example: ingredients used, price, batch number, date of manufacture, expiry date and the address of the manufacturer).
- A consumer can file a complaint and request reimbursement or a replacement if an item turns out to be defective in any way when compared with the information provided.
Right to seek redressal:
- If a consumer suffers any harm, he or she has the right to demand compensation, which is determined by the severity of the harm.
- In some cases, a consumer can register a complaint with the proper consumer forum on his or her own, either with or without the assistance of attorneys.
Right to represent:
- Consumers now have the ability to represent themselves in consumer courts as a result of the Consumer Protection Act.
- As a result, several organisations known as consumer forums or consumer protection councils have been formed in various parts of the country.
- Consumer protection councils provide information to customers on how to submit claims in the consumer court system. Frequently, they are also called upon to represent individual customers in consumer courts. They also receive financial assistance from the government in order to raise awareness among the general public.
Right to consumer education:
- When we, as consumers, become aware of our rights when purchasing a variety of goods and services, we will be better able to make informed decisions.
- To do so, one must first acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to become a well-informed customer.
- Following the passage of the Consumer Protection and Fair Trading Act (COPRA), consumer affairs departments in both federal and state governments were established in order to raise consumer awareness.
How the government has eased approaching consumer commissions
- Filing from place of residence/work
- Videoconferencing for hearing
What Can CCPA Do?
- It can impose a penalty on a manufacturer or an endorser of up to Rs10 lakh and imprisonment for up to two years for a false or misleading advertisement.
Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission
The government has also set up a three-tier enforcement mechanism at the district, state and national levels called the Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (CDRC).
There is a clear-cut distinction between the district commission, state commission and the national commission.
The government had introduced the Bill in a timely manner. The earlier Act had left out many important things. The new Act ensures protection of consumers’ rights and gives teeth to the existing authorities, which investigate issues and complaints about products and services.
A person can raise a complaint based on
- Manufacturing defect
- Design defect
- Deviation from manufacturing specifications
- Not conforming to the express warranty
- Failing to contain adequate instructions for correct use
- Service provided – faulty, imperfect or deficient
Inclusion of the e-commerce sector
Some of the duties of an e-commerce company include that it should be a company incorporated under the Companies Act, 1956 or the Companies Act, 2013; it should display its legal name of the e-commerce entity clearly; it should display the principal geographic address of its headquarters and all branches; and it should have contact details like email address, fax, landline and mobile numbers of customer care as well as of grievance officer, among others.
With the pandemic changing the lives of citizens and the need to use e-commerce, the responsibilities of sellers with regard to adherence to the government norms also increase. The new Act equips the machinery to meet the emerging challenges like e-commerce, telemarketing, misleading advertisements, etc., and ensure efficiency in grievance redressal.
The degree to which a country’s consumers are protected is seen as an indicator of the development made by that country. Specifically, our consumer protection legislation empowers the authorities concerned to conduct investigations into violations of consumer rights and institute complaints or prosecutions, order the recall of unsafe goods and services, order the discontinuance of unfair trade practices and misleading advertisements, and impose penalties on manufacturers, endorsers, and publishers of misleading advertisements.