Consumer Protection Laws

Consumer protection laws aim at the protection of the interests and rights of consumers. These laws aim at changing the mentality of the market from “Caveat Emptor” (let the buyer beware) to “Caveat Venditor” (let the seller beware). In India, there is a statue called ‘The Consumer Protection Act, 1986’ which aims at safeguarding the rights and best interest of consumers.

The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 (COPRA):

This act focuses at advocating competition policy, prohibiting against abusing of a dominant position, prohibiting agreements which can be of an anti-competitive nature.

The intent behind this law is to solve the obstacles in promotion of competition amongst businesses operating under the Indian law. The COPRA is one of the Social Welfare Legislations.

This Act is applicable to all the goods and services until and unless it is specifically exempted by the Central Government. COPRA covers private, public & co-operative sectors, with its provisions having a compensatory nature. The provisions of this Act are powerful as they provide with simple & speedy processes for the solving of disputes. This Act provides for the application of Consumer Protection Councils ate various levels.

How to file a Consumer Complaint in India:

  1. Making of a complaint petition – this petition would include all the particulars of a case, for example, the precise complaint, arranging of the facts proofs and so on in an arranged manner.
  2. Selecting the correct Consumer Court – while choosing the correct forum, the pecuniary jurisdiction (the extent of the value of suits which may be allowed) must be taken into consideration. Also the local jurisdiction of the various district forums must be given importance, for example in cases filed at district forums, one of the grounds for choosing the court can be the place where cause of action arises.
  3. Submitting a mandatory statutory fee – the amount instructed by the concerned forum has to be deposited.
  4. Filling in for Revisions & Appeals – as per the provisions of the COPRA, an appeal or a revision petition is available.

The new Consumer Protection Act, 2019 came into force on 20th July 2020 and it will empower consumers and help them in protecting their rights through its various notified rules and provisions.

  • The new act will be swift and less time consuming compared to the older Consumer Protection Act, 1986 in which single-point access to justice was given making it a time-consuming exercise.
    • The old act provided for a three-tier consumer dispute redressal machinery at the National (National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission), State and District

Key Points

  • The Consumer Protection Act, 2019 establishes the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) whose primary objective will be to promote, protect and enforce the rights of consumers.
    • It is 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.
    •  

Product Liability:

  • A manufacturer or product service provider or product seller will be held responsible to compensate for injury or damage caused by defective product or deficiency in services
  • Basis for product liability action:

    • Manufacturing defect.
    • Design defect.
    • Deviation from manufacturing specifications.
    • Not conforming to express warranty.
    • Failing to contain adequate instructions for correct use.
    • Service provided-faulty, imperfect or deficient.
  • Punishment for Manufacture or Sale of Adulterated/Spurious Goods:
    • In case of the first conviction, a competent court may suspend any licence issued to the person for a period of up to two years and in case of second or subsequent conviction, may cancel the licence permanently.
  • Alternate Dispute Resolution Mechanism of Mediation:

    • A complaint will be referred by a Consumer Commission for mediation, wherever scope for early settlement exists and parties agree for it.
    • The mediation will be held in the Mediation Cells which will be established under the aegis of the Consumer Commissions.
    • There will be no appeal against settlement through mediation.
  • Simplification of the Consumer Dispute Adjudication Process:

    • Empowering the State and District Commissions to review their own orders.
    • Enabling a consumer to file complaints electronically and in consumer commissions that have jurisdiction over the place of his residence.
    • Video-conferencing for hearing and deemed admissibility of complaints if the question of admissibility is not decided within the specified period of 21 days.
  • Other Rules and Regulations:

    • As per the Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission Rules, there will be no fee for filing cases up to Rs. 5 lakh.
    • The credit of the amount due to unidentifiable consumers will go to the Consumer Welfare Fund (CWF).
    • State Commissions will furnish information to the Central Government on a quarterly basis on vacancies, disposal, the pendency of cases and other matters.
    • Apart from these general rules, there are Central Consumer Protection Council Rules, provided for the constitution of the Central Consumer Protection Council (CCPC).

      • It will be an advisory body on consumer issues, headed by the Union Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution with the Minister of State as Vice Chairperson and 34 other members from different fields.
      • It will have a three-year tenure and will have Minister-in-charge of consumer affairs from two States from each region- North, South, East, West, and North-East Region.