This year the theme of National Consumer Day is ‘The Sustainable Consumer’. We need drastic action to address the global crises of climate change and biodiversity loss. The decade of the 2020s is our last chance to limit global warming since pre-industrial times, in line with the Paris Agreement and to reverse the current trend of wide-scale biodiversity loss.The consumer movement should highlight the lifestyle changes consumers can make to play their part, and what governments and businesses need to do to make sustainability the easy choice for consumers.
The Consumer Protection Act 2019 is in force from 20th July 2020. The Act will empower consumers and help them in protecting their 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 adulterant / spurious goods.
The Act includes establishment of the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) to promote, protect and enforce the rights of consumers. The CCPA will be empowered to conduct investigations into violations of consumer rights and institute complaints / prosecution, order recall of unsafe goods and services, order discontinuance of unfair trade practices and misleading advertisements, impose penalties on manufacturers/endorsers/publishers of misleading advertisements.
Under this act 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. The e-commerce platforms also need 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.
The Act 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.
The Act provides for 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.
An Alternate Dispute Resolution mechanism of mediation has been provided in the new Act. This will simplify the adjudication process. 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.
As per the Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission rules, there will be no fee for filing cases upto Rs. 5 lakh. The CCPA may impose a penalty on a manufacturer or an endorser of up to Rs 10 lakh and imprisonment for up to two years for a false or misleading advertisement. In case of a subsequent offence, the fine may extend to Rs 50 lakh and imprisonment of up to five years.
Consumer VOICE wishes all citizens an eventful National Consumer Day 2020 under the new strong Act and hopes that many consumers will join us in also celebrating the International Consumer Rights Day on 15th March 2021. Let’s pledge to make consumers’ voices heard !