The Government has introduced Consumer Protection (Amendment) Bill, 2011, in Lok Sabha on December 16, 2011, to facilitate quicker disposal of cases and to widen and amplify the scope of some of the provisions of the Act. The enactment of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, was an important milestone in the field of consumer protection. In terms of the Act, consumer disputes redressal agencies have been set up at the 629 District, 35 State and National levels to render simple, inexpensive and speedy justice to consumers in respect of complaints against defective goods, deficient services and unfair/restrictive trade practices. With a view to faster redressal of complaints and to rationalize procedure of appointments in consumer disputes redressal agencies, it has been felt necessary to amend the Act.
Amendments proposed provide for the following-
On line filing of consumer complaints
Making provision for registering complaint by electronic form (on line filing complaint)- Since the Consumer Forums are being computerized it is proposed to make provision in the law to permit consumers to file complaints as well as pay fee online, which would make the consumer for a move towards e-governance/ time bound redressal.
Enforcement of orders as a Decree of Civil Court
Making provision that an order of the District Forum / State Commission/ National Commission will be enforced as a Decree of a Civil Court- This modification is considered essential in view of the experiences gained during implementation of the amended Act and is intended to deter willful offenders and also to ensure speedy and proper execution of the order of the consumer forums, so that justice to the aggrieved consumers is not frustrated.
Payment to be made for non-compliance of the order
Making provision for payment by every person for not complying of the order of District Forum / State Commission / National Commission of an amount of not less than Rs. 500 or 1½ per cent of the value of the amount awarded- whichever is higher, for each day of delay of such non-compliance of the order. This modification is considered essential in view of the experiences gained during implementation of the amended Act and is intended to deter willful offenders and also to ensure speedy and proper execution of the orders of the consumer forums, so that justice to the aggrieved consumers is not frustrated.
Powers to District Forum
Empowering District Forum to function in any other place apart from District HQrs, in consultation with State Government / State Commission – This provision is considered necessary to allow State Governments the flexibility to club neighboring Districts Forum as also give additional charge to President/Members to hear cases in more than one District Forum so as to effectively deal with the non-functionality of Districts Forum caused due to vacancy of President/Member.
Conferring powers to District Forum to issue order to the opposite party to pay reasonable rate of interest on such price or charges as may be decided by the District Forum- This provision is considered necessary to empower the consumer forum to award interest where the consumer has suffered due to protracted litigation.
Powers to State Government in selection process
Empowering State Government to refer back the recommendation of the Selection Committee for making fresh recommendation in order to avoid any delay in the Selection process- This is felt necessary to facilitate quicker filling up of the posts in the Consumer Forums and to avoid the consumer Forum remaining non-functional for long due to such vacancy thereby adversely affecting consumers’ interest.
Increase of age in the appointment
Increasing the minimum age for appointment as Member in the case of State Commissions from 35 to 45 years, and in case of National Commission from 35 to 55 years- This is proposed to improve the quality of persons applying for these posts.
Experience for members
Increasing the period of experience for appointment as Member in the case of State Commission from 10 years to 20 years and in the case of National Commission from 10 years to 30 years-This is proposed in order to improve the quality of persons applying for these posts.
Powers to National Commission / State Commission to direct any one to assist the case
Conferring powers to National Commission / State Commission to direct any individual or organization or expert to assist National Commission / State Commission in the cases of large interest of the consumers- This provision would enable the National Commission or the State Commission, in cases involving the larger interests of the consumers, an opportunity to suo moto enlist the services of an expert or an outside party, in an ongoing case, in the interest of justice.
Monitoring system of pending cases
Conferring powers to Central Government to call upon periodical reports of pending cases from National Commission and to State Government from State Commission or any District Forum- The provision is considered necessary to enable easy availability of data regarding filing and disposal of consumer complaints, which would help in monitoring the functioning of the consumer for a and effectiveness of the law.
The above said amendments proposed in the Act will go a long way in speedy redressal of Consumer grievances and sturdy protection of Consumer rights.