The New Consumer Protection Act, 2019

The Union Minister for Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution Mr. Ram Vilas Paswan, on July 20th, 2020 introduced the amended Consumer Protection Act, 2019 with the idea of empowering consumers and helping them protect their rights in a better way.

The Consumer Protection Act, 2019, brought in the following changes:

1) Now E-Commerce Companies will fall under the ambit of a structured consumer redressal mechanism, which will be empowered to conduct investigations into violations of consumer rights. It will also give teeth to the authorities to punish unfair trade practices and misleading advertisements.

2) E-commerce platforms will now have to acknowledge the receipt of any consumer complaint within 48 hours and redress the complaint within a month from the date of receipt.

3) Unlike earlier, a consumer can institute a complaint from where he resides and not at the place where the transaction took place.

4) 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).

5) The State Commissions will furnish information to central government on a quarterly basis on vacancies, disposal, pendency of cases and other matters, the release said.

6) Every E-Commerce Entity is required to provide information relating to return, refund, exchange, warranty and guarantee, delivery and shipment, modes of payment, grievance redressal mechanism, payment methods, security of payment methods, charge-back options, etc., including country of origin, which are necessary for enabling the consumer to make an informed decision at the pre-purchase stage on its platform.

7) E-Commerce Platforms have to acknowledge the receipt of any consumer complaint within forty-eight hours and redress the complaint within one month from the date of receipt under this Act.

8) Introduces the concept of product liability and brings within its scope, the product manufacturer, product service provider and product seller, for any claim for compensation.

9) The new provisions ensure a timely disposal of cases and appeals.

10) Stricter Rules i.e. Protecting Consumer’s rights through its various notified Rules and provisions like Consumer Protection Councils, Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions, Mediation, Product Liability and punishment for manufacture or sale of products containing spurious goods.

11) Rules for prevention of unfair trade practice in E-Commerce

12) Simplifying the consumer dispute adjudication process in the consumer commissions, which include, among others, empowerment of the State and District Commissions to review their own orders, enabling a consumer to file complaints electronically and file complaints in consumer Commissions that have jurisdiction over the place of his residence, videoconferencing for hearing and deemed admissibility of complaints if the question of admissibility is not decided within the specified period of 21 days.

13) Alternate Dispute Resolution mechanism of Mediation has been provided, simplifying the adjudication process.

14) A complaint will be referred by a Consumer Commission for mediation, wherever scope for early settlement exists and parties agree for 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.

15) 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.

16) 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.

17) The Central Consumer Protection Council, which has a three-year tenure, will have Minister-in-charge of consumer affairs from two States from each region- North, South, East, West, and NER. There is also provision for having working groups from amongst the members for specific tasks.

The new provisions in the new Act are a step towards betterment of the consumer legal fraternity and strengthens the grips of law towards the consumers while filling up the gaping gaps of the Act of 1986. A lot will now depend on its implementation by the authorities as well as litigants.

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May 2021