We buy a variety of goods and services in our day-to-day life. Whatever we buy we pay for it and derive satisfaction from its consumption and use. But sometimes we do not feel satisfied with the product we buy. This may be on account of poor quality of the product, overcharging by the shopkeeper, lower quantity of contents, misleading advertisement, and so on. Should we allow these practices to continue? Obviously not; then is there any remedy for such malpractices? The answer lies in the concept and practice of consumer protection, the rights and responsibilities of consumers, legal provisions and mechanism for settlement of consumer grievances.
So, to address the above malpractices and to stop the exploitation of Consumers, the Parliament of India enacted a law called Consumer Protection Act 1986 and in 2019, the parliament enacted the another law by replacing the earlier act. The Consumer Protection Act 2019 was enacted to make some changes in the earlier law by considering the present reality.
Consumer Protection Act 1986 :
The main objectives of the Act are to provide better and all-round protection to consumers and effective safeguards against different types of exploitation such as defective goods, deficient services and unfair trade practices. It also makes provisions for a simple, speedy and inexpensive machinery for redressal of consumers’ grievances.
The salient features of Consumer Protection Act (CPA) 1986 are as follows:
- It applies to all goods, services and unfair trade practices unless specifically exempted by the Central Government.
- It covers all sectors whether private, public or co-operative.
- It provides for establishment of consumer protection councils at the central, state and district levels to promote and protect the rights of consumers and a three tier quasi-judicial machinery to deal with consumer grievances and disputes.
- It provides a statutory recognition to the six rights of consumers.
- The consumer can file the complaint within two years from the date on which the cause of action had arisen. However, it may be admitted even after the lapse of two years if sufficient cause is shown for the delay.
The six rights of the consumer mentioned above are:
- The right to be protected against marketing of goods which are hazardous to life and property
- The right to be informed about quality, quantity, potency, purity, standard and price of the goods to protect the consumer against unfair trade practices.
- The right to be assured, wherever possible, access to variety of goods at competitive price.
- The right to be heard and to be assured that consumers interests will receive due consideration.
- The right to seek redressal against unfair trade practice or unscrupulous exploitation of consumers; and
- Right to consumer education.
Consumer Protection Act 2019:
The new act will be swift and less time consuming compared to the older Consumer Protection Act, 1986 in which single-point access to justice was given making it a time-consuming exercise.
The key provisions of the Act are:
- The Consumer Protection Act, 2019 establishes the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) whose primary objective will be to promote, protect and enforce the rights of consumers.
- Alternate Dispute Resolution Mechanism of Mediation: 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 which will be established under the aegis of the Consumer Commissions.There will be no appeal against settlement through mediation.
- In case of the first conviction, a competent court may suspend any licence issued to the person for a period of up to two years and in case of second or subsequent conviction, may cancel the licence permanently.
- Jurisdiction of CDRCs: The District CDRC will entertain complaints where value of goods and services does not exceed Rs one crore. The State CDRC will entertain complaints when the value is more than Rs one crore but does not exceed Rs 10 crore. Complaints with value of goods and services over Rs 10 crore will be entertained by the National CDRC.
- Rules on E-commerce and Unfair Trade Practices: The government will notify the Consumer Protection (E-commerce) Rules, 2020.