After three decades, the Consumer Protection Act of 1986 is repealed and replaced by the Consumer Protection Act of 2019. In the age of digitization, the Consumer Protection Act of 2019 was enacted with the goal of broadening the scope of consumer rights to include e-commerce, direct selling, tele-shopping, and other multi-level marketing.
The Act will take effect on July 20, 2020. By imposing stricter penalties, this act aims to revamp the settlement and administration process.
UNDER THE 2019 ACT, WHO QUALIFIES AS A "CONSUMER"?
According to Section 2(7) of the 2019 Act, a consumer is anyone who buys goods or receives services for a fee, and includes anyone who uses those services or goods for the purpose of resale or commercial use.
According to the definition's explanation, "buys any goods" and "hires or avails any services" includes all online transactions conducted through electronic means, as well as direct selling, teleshopping, and multi-level marketing.
This act includes an exclusive feature of online transactions, which was added in response to the growing e-commerce industry and technological advancements.
WHAT DOES THE 2019 ACT DEFINE AS A "UNFAIR TRADE PRACTISE"?
Unfair trade practise is defined in Section 2(47) of the Consumer Protection Act of 2019. The term "unfair trade practise" has been expanded to include actions such as:
• manufacturing or selling counterfeit goods, or using deceptive business practises to provide service,
• not generating a proper cash memo or bill for services rendered and goods sold,
• refusing to withdraw, return, or discontinue defective goods and services and refund the consideration received within the time period specified in the bill, or within 30 days if the bill does not contain such a provision,
• not disclosing the consumer's personal information to anyone else in violation of the law
• The definition of unfair trade practise in the repealed Act of 1986 did not include online misleading advertisements, which was added in the 2019 Act.
WHAT ARE THE RIGHTS OF THE CONSUMERS UNDER THE CONSUMER PROTECTION ACT 2019?
• In comparison to the old Consumer Protection Act of 1986, which provided single-point access to justice and made it a time-consuming process, the new act will be quick and efficient.
• The Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) is established by the Consumer Protection Act of 2019, with the primary goal of promoting, protecting, and enforcing consumer rights.
• It has the authority to:
1. Conduct investigations into consumer rights violations and file complaints/prosecutions.
2. Order the recall of any goods or services that are deemed unsafe.
3. Order that unfair trade practises and deceptive advertising be stopped.
4. Manufacturers, endorsers, and publishers of misleading advertisements should face penalties.
• E-commerce and Unfair Trade Practices Regulations: Under the Act, the government will issue the Consumer Protection (E-commerce) Rules, 2020, whose broad provisions are outlined below.
• Consumers are entitled to information on return, refund, exchange, warranty and guarantee, delivery and shipment, modes of payment, grievance redressal mechanism, payment methods, security of payment methods, charge-back options, and country of origin from e-commerce entities.
• These are required in order for the consumer to make an informed pre-purchase decision.
• These platforms must acknowledge receipt of any consumer complaint within 48 hours of receipt and resolve the issue within one month of receipt. They will also be required to appoint a grievance officer to handle consumer complaints.
• The Consumer Protection (E-commerce) Rules, 2020 are obligatory, not optional.
• If goods or services are defective, deficient, delivered late, or do not meet the platform's description, sellers cannot refuse to accept returns, withdraw services, or refuse refunds.
• The rules also prohibit e-commerce companies from manipulating the price of goods or services in order to make a disproportionate profit.
• There will be no fee for filing cases up to Rs. 5 lakh, according to the Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission Rules.
• The amount due to unidentified consumers will be credited to the Consumer Welfare Fund (CWF).
• State Commissions will report vacancies, dispositions, case status, and other matters to the Central Government on a quarterly basis.
• In addition to these general rules, the Central Consumer Protection Council Rules govern the establishment of the Central Consumer Protection Council (CCPC).
• It will be a consumer advisory body led by the Union Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, with the Minister of State serving as Vice Chairperson and 34 other members representing various fields.
• It will have a three-year term and will include two consumer affairs ministers from each of the five regions: North, South, East, West, and North-East.