Gist of Consumer Protection Bill.......
The Consumer Protection Bill, 2019 that seeks to strengthen the rights of consumers was passed by Parliament on Tuesday. It will replace the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.
Who's a consumer? The law brings into its fold, new modes of selling (like e-commerce, tele-shopping, direct selling etc) and will apply to all goods and services, including sale or construction of houses. It also defines unfair contracts, enlarging the scope of unfair trade practices mentioned in the earlier law.
Easier to complain: It allows consumers to file complaints with consumer commissions at the place of their residence or work and not necessarily from where the item was purchased, or the service availed. Consumer affairs ministry will also frame rules for filing complaints electronically and paying the required fee digitally. Consumers will also be allowed to seek a hearing through video conferencing. A commission cannot reject a complaint without hearing it (within 21 days of filing it). The law also has a provision for dispute settlement through mediation.
Their liability, your right: The new law makes it mandatory for manufacturers, sellers or service providers to compensate consumers for defects or deficiency in products or services. Sharing of personal information of consumers is recognised as an unfair trade practice under the new law, which also proposes strict action against advertisers for misleading ads.
A new regulator: A national level regulatory authority known as the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) will have powers to initiate class action and enforce recall, refund or return of products unlike the existing consumer protection councils which are only advisory bodies.
The confusion: The government removed healthcare as one of the services to make the bill 'non-controversial'. While the CCPA will be a central regulator for consumer issues, there are other regulators for various sectors (like telecom, insurance), which leaves the scope for overlapping jurisdictions and confusion. While the law proposes a 21-day deadline for hearing complaints, the posts of president of consumer commissions are lying vacant in 118 of the 596 districts and as many as 362 posts of commission members are lying vacant. Similarly, the bill does not mention what qualifications are needed to be a member of the redressal body. This may lead to conflicts of interest if a current or former government employee ends up hearing a case involving the government, for instance. Some activists have also said that the multiplicity of options to complain — consumer courts, councils, sector regulators — will also end up confusing consumers. more
'This exercise is nothing but am eye wash. I have been writing to several fora for the last 20 years that, every seller/producer of all products must be required to clearly mention in their respective webpages their email contact addresses so as to enable the dissatisfied/aggrieved consumers to at least reach the entity responsible for the production and sale of a defective product. For the last about 8 months, for example, I have been trying to reach the manufacturer of a nebulizer, marketed by Apollo Hospitals group. The email address of the concerned person given in the papers/website is clearly fake as my mails have invariably bounced back. My attempts at reaching Apollo through Messenger also yielded no response, while the Apollo outlet is merrily sitting right. All this because of the permissive latitude allowed to the big parties in the economy for obvious reasons. What is suggestive, however, is that the Apollo group had had statutory interaction with me during my very long stint in Chennai.' more