HOW THE NEW ACT HELPS CONSUMERS WITH PROBLEMS THEY WERE NOT AWARE OF!
Updated: Dec 13, 2020
- Ishan Vora
The Consumer Protection Act, 2019(2020)
The new Amendment is much of a recent one, freshly constituted on 20th July, 2020 which in turn replaced the previous enactment of 1986. The 2019 Act has brought in some major changes and provides for more protection to the consumers in parimateria to the earlier 1986 Act which can be seen from the comprehensive definition provided for the term 'Consumer' and 'Unfair Trade Practice'. The new Act not only has laws regarding new found malpractices but also ensures more strict penalties for various malpractices which may endanger the health of the consumers purchasing it. This act has overhauled the entire meaning of the settlement of consumer disputes in India. Due to this enactment, the Consumer will truly be the King.
Some of the laws which will help the consumer in engaging this process are as follows:
· A disgruntled customer can file a case not only from the place of sale but from anywhere in the world as e-filing is also an option now.
· A new concept of product liability has appeared due to which, the customer can demand a payout due to negligence of not only the manufacturer but also the seller or service provider.
· No fees are required if the paid settlement is under 5 lakhs.
· If a customer thinks that he is competent, he may present his own case through video-conferencing. Hence, he may or may not engage the services of a lawyer.
· Misleading advertisements have become a major problem in a country where companies lure the public with shiny products and false promises; this can now lead to imprisonment. Any celebrity endorsing the product will not be punished but will not be allowed to endorse the product henceforth.
· Now, this law is a break-through for our system, now (like the US) various consumers can join hands and file a class action lawsuit to reduce the cost of litigation and increase the settlement pay-out due to increase in aggrieved consumers.
· Producers of spurious goods will face imprisonment.
· E-commerce is now tightly regulated, and e-commerce companies are now expected to disclose all relevant product information, including country of origin, and respond to the grievance of consumers within prescribed timelines.
· Settlement of consumer disputes through mediation i.e. with the help of a neutral intermediary outside the consumer court is encouraged under the new law, thus saving time and resources of disputing parties which would otherwise have been spent on dispute resolution through a formal mechanism.
· Consumers now have several protected rights, including the right to safety, information, choice, and redressal as well as right to be heard, to be educated as a consumer, and to a mediated settlement.
In my opinion, this was a much-needed enactment is one which is solving problems that people didn’t have in 1986 and hence could not understand the variety and severity of certain malpractices and their impact on the lives of the consumers using them. The video-conferencing case presentation is something that was long overdue and certainly is of benefit to the consumers due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. The misleading advertisements had become an everyday thing with products such as “Fair & Lovely Cream” and the “Lifebuoy Hand Sanitizer” claiming that it can make you look fair instantly and one that boosts your immunity respectively. Now, these two are well-reputed brands and if they are willing to cross the lines to increase their sales, this says a lot about how much they respect the law. Corporate entities that cater to consumers will have to exercise greater care and caution in terms of quality, quantity, and product safety. The 2019 Act has also introduced the concept of 'unfair contract' which includes those contracts, which side with the manufacturers or service providers and are against the interest of the consumers such as contracts requiring manifestly excessive security deposits to be given by a consumer for the performance of contractual obligations; imposing any penalty on the consumer for a breach of the contract, which is wholly disproportionate to the loss occurred due to such breach to the other party to the contract; refusing to accept early repayment of debts on payment of applicable penalty; entitlement of a party to the contract to terminate such contract unilaterally, without reasonable cause, permitting or has the effect of permitting one party to assign the contract to the detriment of the other party who is a consumer, without his consent; and imposing on the consumer any unreasonable charge, obligation or condition which puts such a consumer to any disadvantage. Such unfair consumer contracts are now covered under the 2019 Act and a complaint in this regard can now be filed by a consumer. This would help to keep a check on businesses including banks and e-commerce sites that take advantage of the economically weak and illiterate sections of society.
Ishan Vora is a second year student at Pravin Gandhi College of Law, Mumbai.