All About The Consumer Protection Act, 2019

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Index

  1. Introduction 
  2. Who Is A Consumer 
  3. Why Consumer Protection Act, 2019 Is Needed 
  4. Aim Of Consumer Protection Act, 2019
  5. Rights Of Consumers Under Consumer Protection Act, 2019
  6. Unfair Trade Practices Under Consumer Protection Act, 2019
  7. Changes Made In Consumer Protection Act, 2019
  8. Councils Under The Consumer Protection Act, 2019
  9. The Central Consumer Protection Authority 
  10. District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission Under The Consumer Protection Act, 2019
  11. Consumer Mediation Cells Under The Consumer Protection Act, 2019
  12. What Is Product Liability
  13. Offences And Penalties Under The Consumer Protection Act, 2019
  14. Benefits Under The Consumer Protection Act, 2019
  15. Conclusion 

Introduction 

The Consumer Protection Act, 2019 is a set of measures aimed at safeguarding buyers from unfair practices in the market, providing remedies if their consumer rights are violated. It addresses corrupt practices by sellers, manufacturers, and service providers, ensuring consumer welfare.

The Consumer Protection Act, 2019 in India oversees consumer rights, replacing the 1986 Act. It addresses modern consumer challenges, incorporating provisions for their protection and promotion of their rights.

Who Is A Consumer 

A consumer, as per Section 2(7) of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019, is an individual or group purchasing goods or services for personal use, excluding manufacturing or resale purposes. The Act explicitly includes online transactions, electronic means, direct selling, teleshopping, and multi-level marketing within its definition of consumer transactions.

Why Consumer Protection Act, 2019 Is Needed 

The Indian legislature introduced the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 to address violations of consumer rights, unfair trade practices, misleading advertisements, and other actions detrimental to consumers. With the rise of technology and online commerce, the Act was designed to protect e-consumers as well. It establishes Consumer Protection Councils to resolve disputes and ensure fair compensation for infringed rights, along with efficient handling of complaints through alternate dispute resolution methods. Additionally, the Act emphasises consumer education to inform them about their rights, responsibilities, and avenues for grievance redressal.

Aim Of Consumer Protection Act, 2019

The primary goal of the Act is to safeguard consumer interests and establish a robust system for resolving consumer disputes. It aims to:

  1. Protect consumers from hazardous products.
  2. Ensure transparency regarding product quality, quantity, and pricing to prevent unfair trade practices.
  3. Create Consumer Protection Councils to safeguard consumer rights.
  4. Ensure access to goods at fair prices.
  5. Address unfair trade practices and exploitation of consumers.
  6. Appoint authorities for prompt resolution of consumer disputes.
  7. Enforce penalties for Act violations.
  8. Prioritise consumer welfare in dispute resolution.
  9. Educate consumers about their rights.
  10. Expedite complaint resolution through alternate dispute resolution methods.

Rights Of Consumers Under Consumer Protection Act, 2019

Section 2(9) of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 outlines six fundamental rights for consumers:

  1. Protection from hazardous goods and services.
  2. Protection against unfair trade practices by ensuring information on product quality, quantity, etc.
  3. Access to a range of goods and services at competitive prices.
  4. Redressal of grievances against unfair trade practices.
  5. Entitlement to adequate compensation for consumer rights violations.
  6. Access to consumer education.
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Unfair Trade Practices Under Consumer Protection Act, 2019

Section 2 (47) mentions unfair trade practices under the consumer protection act and they include :

  1. Producing counterfeit products or offering substandard services.
  2. Failing to provide cash receipts or invoices for purchased goods or services.
  3. Declining returns or refunds for goods/services and retaining the payment received.
  4. Revealing consumers’ personal data without consent.

Changes Made In Consumer Protection Act, 2019

  1. The Consumer Protection Act, 2019 introduced several jurisdictional changes. District Commissions handle complaints under 50 lakh rupees, State Commissions for amounts between 50 lakh and two crore rupees, and the National Commission for complaints exceeding two crore rupees. The Act mandates swift resolution, aiming for three months for straightforward cases and five months for those needing analysis or testing.
  2. The Act embraces digitalization, allowing online complaints via the E-Daakhil Portal, ensuring accessible redressal nationwide. It also encompasses e-commerce and direct selling, offering mediation and alternative dispute resolution mechanisms for easier case resolution without extensive litigation.
  3. Notably, the Act expands coverage by addressing product liability, unfair contracts, and adding three new unfair trade practices, surpassing the older Act’s six types. It establishes itself as an advisory body for consumer rights promotion and protection, with member appointments authorised by the Central Government, eliminating selection committees.
  4. The Consumer Protection Act, 2019’s enactment reflects the digital era’s challenges, accommodating e-commerce growth with improved payment systems, varied choices, and enhanced services, emphasising consumer welfare in the evolving market landscape.

Councils Under The Consumer Protection Act, 2019

As per Chapter 2 Section 3 of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019, the Central Government establishes the Central Consumer Protection Council, also known as the Central Council. The Council, chaired by the Minister overseeing the Department of Consumer Affairs in the Central Government, comprises official and non-official members representing various interests outlined in the Act. While the Central Council convenes as needed, it must conduct at least one annual meeting. Its primary objective is to safeguard and advance consumer interests as per the Act.

Each state government is mandated to establish a State Consumer Protection Council, referred to as the State Council, which operates within the jurisdiction of that specific state. The State Council functions as an advisory body and is chaired by the Minister overseeing Consumer Affairs in the State Government. It comprises official and non-official members representing pertinent interests outlined in the Act, and the Central Government can appoint a minimum of ten additional members for Act-related purposes. The State Councils are required to conduct at least two meetings annually.

As per Section 8 of the Act, each state government must create a District Consumer Protection Council, referred to as the District Council, for every district. The Council is headed by the district’s collector serving as the Chairperson, along with other members representing relevant interests as per the Act.

The Central Consumer Protection Authority 

Under Section 10 of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019, the Central Government is mandated to establish the Central Consumer Protection Authority, referred to as the Central Authority. Its role encompasses regulating issues such as consumer rights violations, unfair trade practices, and deceptive advertisements that are detrimental to public and consumer interests. The Central Government appoints the Chief Commissioner and other Commissioners as necessary for the Authority’s operations.

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Additionally, as stipulated in Section 15 of the Act, the Central Authority must maintain an ‘Investigative Wing’ tasked with conducting inquiries and investigations. This wing comprises the Director-General, along with the requisite number of Additional Director-Generals, Directors, Joint Directors, Deputy Directors, and Assistant Directors possessing the necessary qualifications and experience to execute the Act’s functions.

Section 18 of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 delineates the functions and duties of the Central Authority, including:

  1. Safeguarding and promoting consumer rights, preventing their violation.
  2. Curbing unfair trade practices and misleading advertisements.
  3. Investigating violations and filing complaints with relevant commissions.
  4. Reviewing factors hindering consumer rights enjoyment.
  5. Recommending international best practices for consumer rights.
  6. Promoting consumer rights awareness and research.
  7. Establishing guidelines against unfair trade practices.
  8. Investigating complaints received or directed by the Central Government.

Moreover, the Central Authority is empowered to take corrective measures upon confirming violations, including recalling hazardous goods, refunding consumers, and halting prejudicial practices. Under Section 21, it can impose penalties up to ten lakh rupees on false advertisements, considering factors like affected population, offence frequency, and revenue. The Central Authority also holds the authority for search and seizure under the Act, following the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973.

District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission Under The Consumer Protection Act, 2019

Under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019, each district of a state is mandated to establish a District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, referred to as the District Commission. This Commission is composed of a President and a minimum of two members as specified by the Central Government.

According to Section 34 of the Act, the District Commission has the authority to address complaints where the value of goods or services paid does not exceed one crore rupees. Complaints can be filed by consumers, recognized consumer associations, the Central Government, Central Authority, State Government, etc., relating to goods and services.

Section 36 outlines that proceedings before the District Commission are conducted by the President and at least one member of the commission.

Consumer Mediation Cells Under The Consumer Protection Act, 2019

Chapter 5 Section 74 of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 mandates the establishment of a Consumer Mediation Cell at both national and state levels by the Central and respective state governments. These cells operate within their jurisdictions. Mediators appointed for mediation must adhere to specified timelines and procedures as per regulations.

Section 75 of the Act addresses the empanelment of mediators, detailing their qualifications, terms of service, appointment procedures, and fee structures. Mediators are required to disclose relevant information such as personal, financial, or professional interests in the consumer dispute, factors influencing their independence and impartiality, and any other pertinent details for safeguarding consumer rights.

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Section 83 of the Act allows a complainant to initiate a product liability action against a product manufacturer, service provider, or seller. 

What Is Product Liability

Manufacturers are liable if the product has manufacturing defects, is defective, deviates from specifications, doesn’t meet express warranty terms, or lacks proper usage information.

Service providers are liable for faulty services, negligence, inadequate instructions/warnings, or breach of express warranty or contract terms.

Sellers are liable if they alter the product to the consumer’s detriment, fail to exercise reasonable care in product handling, or cause harm due to substantial control over the product.

Exceptions under Section 87 include consumer misuse/alteration, adequate warnings by the manufacturer, and non-liability for commonly known dangers.

Offences And Penalties Under The Consumer Protection Act, 2019

False and Misleading Advertisements (Section 89):

Manufacturers or service providers promoting false or misleading ads face up to two years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to ten lakh rupees.

Adulterated Products (Section 90):

Penalties depend on the harm caused:

  1. No injury: up to six months’ imprisonment and a fine up to one lakh rupees.
  2. Injury not amounting to grievous harm: up to one year’s imprisonment and a fine up to three lakh rupees.
  3. Grievous harm: up to seven years’ imprisonment and a fine up to five lakh rupees.
  4. Death: seven years to life imprisonment and a fine of at least ten lakh rupees.

Spurious Products (Section 91):

Manufacturing, selling, or distributing spurious products results in appropriate penalties under this Act.

Benefits Under The Consumer Protection Act, 2019

The Act includes ‘unfair contracts’ under Section 2(46), addressing issues like excessive security deposits. This provision empowers consumers to file complaints and serves as a deterrent against fraudulent practices.

The Act allows consumers to file complaints where they reside or work, facilitating easier access to grievance redressal when their rights are infringed.

Strict penalties are defined for ‘false and misleading advertisements,’ helping curb deceptive marketing practices.

The Act defines ‘product liability,’ mandating compensation by manufacturers, service providers, or sellers for consumer harm due to defective products or services.

Consumers can opt for mediation and alternative dispute resolution for quicker and efficient dispute settlement.

The Act enables e-filing of complaints and video conference hearings, offering convenient avenues for consumers to address their grievances.

Conclusion 

The Consumer Protection Act, 2019 is a modernised legislation that grants consumers numerous benefits and rights, safeguarding them from unfair trade practices and deceptive advertisements. It offers alternative dispute resolution options like mediation for swift and efficient dispute resolution. The Act’s provisions for e-filing complaints and recognizing e-consumers reflect forward-thinking by the legislature. Additionally, it introduces new concepts like product liability and unfair contracts, broadening consumer rights protection and empowering consumers to address violations effectively.

The Act addresses shortcomings in the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, marking a pivotal change in how consumer rights are protected in the country.

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