Why is there a need of consumer laws? To understand this we need to first know who a consumer is under the eyes of law. According to the Consumer Protection Act 1986 a consumer can be defined as a person who purchases goods and services for his personal use and not for resale or manufacturing.
The minute an individual is born into this world, they start consuming the goods and services. One’s basic needs are consumed such as clothes, food, soap, water, and many more things. These needs don’t stop but they take different forms as the person ages. Thus, we all are consumers in one way or the other. In layman language when we go to the Market we try to put our money to the best use, we expect to get the value of our money i.e. satisfactory quality under the right amount. At times, the consumer may not get the value of their money or they can be a victim of fraud or harassment or maybe cheated in someway or the other.
The government understood the need to protect their consumers from such unethical and immoral activities of the suppliers. Eventually several laws were made with regards to the same. Some of the examples are Sales of Goods Act, the Dangerous Drugs Act, Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, th Indian Contract Act, Agricultural Produce Act, etc. Even though these acts protected the rights of the consumer to some extent, these laws required initiation of civil suits by the consumer. These civil suits are a lengthy legal process and also are expensive and time consuming.
On December 24,1986 the Consumer Protection Act. This was an act of the Parliament of India to protect the interest of the consumers of their country. It is thought provoking that the Act doesn’t seek to protect every consumer by the literal meaning of the term, it is meant for the person who fits accurately in the definition of the word ‘consumer’ given by the Act.
This Act is said to be the Magna Carta of the Indian consumers as it is quite unique in nature and is also highly progressive piece social welfare. This is the only law which directly relates to the market place and takes into consideration the complaints that arise from the same. This Act has mean made with the aim of providing simpler and quicker protection to their consumers.
The Consumer Protection Act,1986 (COPRA) was replaced by the Consumer Protection Act, 2019. It was introduced in the Lok Sabha by the minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Ram Vilas Paswan and later on it was passed by Rajya Sabha on 6 August 2019. The Consumer Protection Act 2019 has been made keeping in mind the challenges faced by the consumers in this new age of digitalization. This new era of E-commerce has made a significant impact in today’s world. E- commerce have made our lives quite easy by giving us access to a large variety of choices, doorstep services convenient payment options and what not. But along with the facilities the growing industry has bought some significant challenges related to the consumer protection. Often while shopping online we come across fraud websites, asking for payments and then providing the said the services.
The new provisions in act are a meant for the betterment and strengthening the consumer’s legal rights. Some of the key highlights of the Consumer Protection Act 2019 are;
-E-Commerce Transactions: The New Act has enhanced the definition of ‘consumer’. It now includes a person who buys any goods, whether through offline or online transactions, electronic means, teleshopping, direct selling or multi-level marketing. The former Act didn’t specifically include e-commerce transactions, and this lacuna has been addressed by the New Act.
– E-Filing of Complaints: The New Act provides flexibility to the customer to file complaints with the jurisdictional consumer forum located at the place of residence or work of the customer. It also contains enabling provisions for consumers to file complaints electronically and for hearing and/or examining parties through video-conferencing. This is aimed to provide procedural comfort and to lessen the inconvenience and harassment for the consumers.
– The CCPA has been allocated significant powers to need suo-moto actions, recall products, order reimbursement of the price of goods/services, cancel licenses and file class action suits, if a consumer complaint affects more than 1 (one) individual.
– Unfair Trade Practices: The New Act introduces a specific broad definition of Unfair Trade Practices, which also includes sharing of private information given by the buyer in confidence, unless such disclosure is formed in accordance with the provisions of the other law.
– Penalties for Misleading Advertisement: A penalty of up to INR 10,00,000 (Indian Rupees Ten Lakhs) can be imposed on a manufacturer or an endorser, for a false or misleading advertisement. The endorser can also be sentenced to imprisonment for up to 2 (two) years for an equivalent. For every subsequent offence, the amount of prohibition may reach 3 (three) years.
With the New Act ready to become the law, a consumer is now the one who assumes to be treated sort of a King. Hence, it’s important for consumer driven businesses (such as, retail, e-commerce) to be mindful of the changes within the legal landscape and have robust policies handling consumer redressal in place. Consumer driven businesses must also strive to require extra precautions against unfair trade practices and unethical business practices.