CONSUMER PROTECTION ACT, 2019: ITS OVERVIEW AND DYNAMICS IN INDIA



Share on:

INTRODUCTION

The "Jago Grahak Jago" campaign launched in 2005 by the food department and the new amendment of 2019 worked towards the awareness and encouragement of consumer rights. Bills are passed by the legislature but making them accessible to the common masses is a different card game. Gone are the days when there was no product liability, and the ambit of law was limited. The new laws now provide a mechanism for the redressal of complaints regarding defects in goods and deficiency in services. The same could have only been achieved because of the most vital and successful Consumer Awareness campaign and constant changes in the law from time to time.

Who is a consumer? and The Needs for Consumer Rights.

The question arises, what leads to consumers having rights? To answer these questions, it is important to understand the meaning of consumer. Under the law, a consumer is defined as a person who buys or hires any goods or services for a consideration that is paid, partially paid, promised, or partly promised. Despite having a plethora of laws in the '80s, India couldn't provide quick relief to its consumers. There were various shortcomings and defects from the seller's end, but the consumers only faced the consequences from all aspects, including medical and economical. Consumers were being misled by problems like adulteration, wrong measurements of food products, and ambiguous information. 

It shouldn't be the consumer's responsibility to figure out what's cruel and what's kind, what's environmentally destructive and what's sustainable. Thus, the need for the protection of consumer rights was felt. With the enactment of the first-ever consumer protection act in 1986, unfair trade practices, including deception and fraudulent methods, and selling goods at higher prices, were now considered against the law. 

Under the Consumer Protection Act, the primary offenses include:

  • Misleading advertisements.
  • Manufacturing sales.
  • Production of contaminated products.
  • Failure to follow the guidelines directed by the central consumer protection authority.

What Makes the Consumer Protection Act 2019 More Acceptable?

The consumer protection act of 1986 provides the following features;

  • Consumer dispute redressal is a three-tier committee set up at the national, state, and district levels to address consumer matters. 
  • The formation of the national commission comes under section 20-27A of the act; there shall be a president and four members. If the party is dissatisfied, they can easily file an appeal in the supreme court within thirty days. 
  •  The State commission consists of two members and the president; the complaint should be at least 20 lakh and not exceeding one crore.
  • Section 9-15 talks about a district forum comprising two members and one president.
  • Applicable to all goods and services unless exemption is there from the central government.
  • It applies to all sectors, private, public, or any person.
  • A consumer can file a complaint within 2 years from the date of purchase of an article.

With the growing variety of goods or services at modest prices, it was time to bring in the required changes. On July 20, 2020, the new Consumer Protection Act 2019 came into action, replacing the act introduced earlier. The new amended act 2019 brings very vital and significant changes. 

  • Consumers can now easily file a complaint from where they reside or work.
  • The district, state, and National Commission's pecuniary jurisdiction was revised.
  • The period for filing appeals to the State Commission is increased from 30 days to 45 days.
  •  Parties also have the freedom to settle disputes through mediation. 
  • The act keeps the changing nature of the consumer recognized in offline and online modes. Consumers can now perform their own cases through video conferencing; engaging a lawyer is optional.
  •  The concept of product liability has been introduced here. The manufacturer, service provider, and seller can make the claims.
  • While some provisions, such as those relating to deceptive advertising, celebrity product endorsements, the creation of the Apex Central Protection Authority, e-commerce, etc., have not yet been notified, the benefits to consumers will be streamlined and expanded once they are.
  • It was made mandatory to have a minimum of 1 President and 4 Members in SCDRC.
  • Several protected rights have been introduced, including the right to safety, redressal, and the right to be heard, consumes safety has been considered a top priority.

How Can a Consumer Register a Complaint?

The government of India's department of consumer affairs, food & public distribution has provided a national consumer helpline; consumers can call, SMS, register through the NCH app, UMANG app, or even register online.

 After passing the Consumer Protection Act 2019, the national consumer dispute redressal commission launched the facility of filling complaints online through the online portal eDaakhil. There are more than 500 cases disposed of via the online portal. A total of 444 locations are covered under the jurisdiction of edaakhil. 

Steps to Register a complaint;

  • Register on the official website of the department of consumer affairs, government of India.
  • Provide basic details like your name, mobile number, address, email address, etc.
  • After registration, log in to your account and click on the option to file a complaint.

There are numerous remedies under the consumer protection act keeping in mind the facts and circumstances of the case. The redressal forums have been authorized to issue reliefs like removal of defects from the goods, refund no sale of hazardous goods, and sale putting an end to unfair trade practices. 

EFFECTIVENESS AND REMEDIES PROVIDED IN THE CONSUMER PROTECTION SYSTEM

There are numerous remedies under the consumer protection act keeping in mind the facts and circumstances of the case. The redressal forums have been authorized to issue reliefs like removal of defects from the goods, refund no sale of hazardous goods and sale putting an end to unfair trade practices. 

In a path-breaking medical negligence case involving the highest compensation for medical negligence; 

Dr. Kunal Saha against AMRI (Advanced Medical Research Institute), In March 1998, child psychologist Anuradha traveled to her hometown of Kolkata. She referred to Dr. Sukumar Mukherjee on April 25, complaining about her skin rashes, the doctor advised her not to take any medication. Still, On May 7, 1998, when the rashes became more severe, Dr. Mukherjee recommended a Depomedrol injection of 80 mg twice daily. Anuradha's condition rapidly deteriorated after receiving the injection, necessitating her admission to AMRI on May 11 while being closely monitored by Dr. Mukherjee. Saha filed a petition to the NCDRC asking for compensation. The NCDRC had held the American doctor responsible for funding the three doctors, awarding Saha Rs 1,72,87,500 as compensation for the death of his wife. Due to the hospital's negligence, the compensation was reduced by 10%, or Rs. 1.55 crore, to reflect the negligence.

Meanwhile, Anuradha was referred to Mumbai's Breach Candy Hospital when her condition did not improve. she was discovered to have toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN), a fatal skin condition. On May 28, 1998, she passed away there. Saha then brought both a criminal and a civil lawsuit against the medical professionals and the two hospitals, claiming that their gross negligence in her care caused her to pass away. On October 24, 2013, the Supreme Court issued its ruling, compensating the plaintiff with approximately 6.08 crore for the death of his wife.

 

As per the report of NCDRC: 

  • National Commission has a rate of 84.24% of total disposition. 
  • The State commission is a little ahead with 87.12%.
  • And district commission with 89.65% making the total percentage of disposal 89.14%.

 

CONCLUSION:

Owing to the changing trends, technology, and platforms for sellers and buyers, the laws have certainly evolved, keeping in mind consumers' welfare. From the buyer being the only one responsible to the consumer being a king, the changes have been quite evident, resulting in easy and relatively quick relief. Consumer protection has been a gap that is now filled with the new amended act of 2019 and firm administration of laws. Today the offenders are punished with a fine that may extend up to Rs.10lakh and up to 2 years of jail time.