Consumer Law And Its Latest Amendments
Who is a Consumer?
The term consumer means any person,
(i) who buys any goods for a consideration which has been paid or promised or partly paid and partly promised. and/or;
(ii) hires or avails of any service for a consideration which has been paid or promised or partly paid and partly promised.
What are the rights of a Consumer?
The rights of the consumer are as followed:
1. Right to safety: This protects the consumers against the marketing of goods and services, which are hazardous to life and property.
2. Right to choose: This right provides access to choose from a variety of goods and services at fair price.
3. Right to be informed: This right ensures that the consumer be informed about the quality, quantity, potency, purity, standard and price of goods so as to protect the consumer against unfair trade practices.
4. Right to consumer education: This right is to acquire the knowledge and skill to be an informed consumer throughout life, as they should know their rights and must exercise them. Only then real consumer protection can be achieved with success.
5. Right to be heard: This right ensures that the grievances of a consumer are heard at appropriate forums. This right provides an opportunity to the consumers to voice out their opinion.
6. Right to Seek redressal: This right allows to seek redressal against unfair trade practices or unscrupulous exploitation of consumers. Consumers has an option to make complaint for their genuine grievances.
What is Consumer Law?
Consumer law involves all of the regulations and statutes that seek to create a more equitable balance for buyers in the marketplace and prevent sellers from using dishonest tactics.
What is the background of Consumer Protection Law in India?
With the growing level of competition in the consumer market, the risk of consumers being the victim of exploitive and unfair trade practices increased with rapid speed. In such situation, protecting the consumers rights and interest through appropriate policy measures was the ultimate need of time. Thus, the Consumer Protection Act,1986 was introduced with a motive to protect the consumers and aware everyone regarding the laws relating to unfair trade practices.
What is the need of Consumer Protection Act, 1986?
Earlier, the aggrieved consumer had no remedy but to initiate action by way of a civil suit, a lengthy and expensive process caused undue harassment to the consumers.
The Consumer Protection Act provides for quick and easy remedy to consumers under a three-tier quasi judicial redressal agency at District, State and National levels.
What is the need for New Consumer Protection Act,2019?
The New Act introduced online filing of complaint and Mediation proceedings for the speedy and effective disposal of consumer cases.
Further, the new act provided for establishment of “Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA)” to promote, protect and enforce the rights of consumers. It has also introduced the concept of “Product Liability” and E-Commerce, thus, all the rules and regulations made under the new act shall be applicable to e-commerce as well. Furthermore, the consumers can now file a complaint with appropriate jurisdiction of the consumer commission located at the place of residence or office of the consumer.
The purpose of the new act is to protect the interest of the consumers and provide effective and timely settlement of dispute, connected to consumers.
What is Mediation under Consumer Protection Act, 2019?
The Consumer Protection Act, 2019 introduced an alternative dispute resolution mechanism, namely “Mediation” in order to resolve the disputes of the consumers in a much faster way without having to approach the Commissions. This system is introduced to lesser the burden of cases on Commissions and to help the consumers get effective and timely relief.
What is Central Consumer Protection Authorities?
Earlier, there were no authorities to check, regulate and address the grievances of the consumers in an effective and speedy manner. In order to overcome this difficulty, Central Consumer Protection Authority(CCPA) is established under the new Act in order to promote, protect and enforce the rights of consumers as a class. The Central Authority shall consist of Chief Commissioner, appointed by the Central Government has power to decide matters relating to violation of rights of consumers, false or misleading advertisements, etc.
Further, it has an investigation wing headed by a Director-General for the purpose of conducting investigation under the act.
Any person aggrieved from the order of CCPA may make an appeal before the National Commission within 30 days from the date of the receipt of such order.
What does the term “Product Liability” means?
Product Liability is defined as, “the responsibility of a product manufacturer or product seller of any product or service, to compensate for any harm caused to a consumer by such defective product manufactured or sold or by deficiency in services.”
Thus, this provision imposes a liability on the product manufacturers and sellers to compensate the consumers for any harm caused to them due to negligence on their part.
What is Consumer Court?
The Consumer Protection Act aims to protect the rights of a consumer and his interests. Under this Act, statutory bodies known as Consumer Courts are established to deal with suits filed by consumers.
Consumer Courts reduce the expense and time of consumer and one can seek remedy easily.
When can complaint be made?
A complaint may be made in writing under the following circumstances:
a) Loss or damage is caused to the consumer due to unfair or restrictive trade practice of a trader or service provider;
b) the article purchased by a consumer is defective;
c) the services availed of by a consumer suffer from any deficiency;
d) a trader or service provider, as the case may be, has charged for the goods or for the service mentioned in the complaint a price in excess of the stipulated price;
e) Goods or services, which will be hazardous to life and safety, when used, are being offered for sale to the public.
Who can file a Complaint?
a) Any consumer;
b) Any voluntary consumer association;
c) Central Government or any State Government;
d) One or more consumers, where there are numerous consumers having same interest.
e) In case of death of a consumer, his legal heir or representative.
Where to file a Complaint?
As per the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 a complaint can be filed in:
- Each District has a District Forum.
- District Forum consists of three members.
- Out of the three, one is President, who is or has been or is qualified to be a District Judge.
- One of the members shall be a woman.
- It entertains complaints where the value of claim is up to 20 Lakhs.
- The Complaint before District Commission can be filed within the 2 years from the date of dispute.
As per the recent amendment of Consumer Protection Act, 2019
- The name of District Forum has been changed to “District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission.”
- The Pecuniary Jurisdiction has been changed. At present, the Commission has the jurisdiction to entertain complaints, where the value of claim does not exceed One Crore Rupees.
- A new power has been added, the District Commission has the Power to Review its own order within 30 Days of such order.
- Each state has one State Commission.
- It consists of a President, who is or has been a Judge of a High Court and two other members, one of whom shall be a woman.
- Complaints can be filed in State Commission where the value of claim is above ` 20 Lakhs but less than One Crore.
- Any party aggrieved by the order of District Commission may make an appeal within thirty days to State Commission
As per the recent amendment of Consumer Protection Act, 2019
- The Pecuniary Jurisdiction has been changed. At present, the Commission has the jurisdiction to entertain complaints, where the value of claim exceed Rupees One Crore but does not exceed Rupees Ten Crore.
- A new power has been added, the State Commission has the Power to Review its own order within 30 Days of such order.
- The time of appeal to State Commission has been increased from thirty days to forty-five days.
- The National Commission is located in New Delhi.
- It consists of a President who is or has been a Judge of the Supreme Court and not less than four other members, one of whom shall be a woman.
- Complaints for value of claim exceeding rupees one crore can be filed in the National Commission.
- It takes appeals against Orders passed by the State Commissions within 30 days.
- The Orders of this Commission can only be challenged in the Supreme Court of India.
As per the recent amendment of Consumer Protection Act, 2019
- The Pecuniary Jurisdiction has been changed. At present, the Commission has the jurisdiction to entertain complaints, where the value of claim exceeds Rupees Ten Crore.
- A new power has been added, the National Commission has the Power to Review its own order within 30 Days of such order.
How to make a complaint?
A complaint relating to violation of consumer rights or unfair trade practices or false or misleading advertisements ,shall be forwarded either in writing or in electronic mode.
What is the procedure to file a complaint?
The new act introduces the “Online Filing” of Consumer Complaint.
Step 1- Issuance of Notice:
Before filing of the complaint, it is advisable for the complainant to issue a notice to the opposite party, highlighting the defects in goods. If the parties do not agree to come to a mutual understanding then the complainant can file a complaint before appropriate authority.
Step 2- Determining the Jurisdiction:
The Complainant needs to file the complaint within the pecuniary and territorial jurisdiction.
The Pecuniary Jurisdiction has been explained in detail above. Whereas, the territorial jurisdiction is the place where the opposite party resides or carry on business or personally works for gain.
Step 3- Contents of Complaint:
a. Name and complete details of complainant And opposite party.
b. Date and time of purchase of goods or availing of services.
c. Necessary Facts of the case establishing the cause of action.
d. Particulars of dispute, i.e. whether there is Defect in goods or deficiency in service.
e. Relief sought
f. Signature of the complainant or his authorized agent.
g. Attach the
h. Copies of the documents supporting the contention of the complainant. (Invoice, Warranty receipt, etc)
Step 4- Submission of Complaint:
Submission of complaint can be made in the form of writing or through online.
Step 5- Pay requisite court fees:
A prescribed fee is required to be paid along with complaint filed depending on the forum. The court fee depends upon the value of goods bought and the amount of compensation sought.
Step 6- Submit an Affidavit:
The person who wants to file a case in the Consumer Court is also required to submit an affidavit in the court stating that the facts presented and statements made by the consumer are true to their knowledge.
What is the procedure for registration of online complaint?
a. Aggrieved person can register complaints on https://consumerhelpline.gov.in/
b. Complaints can be registered by filling essentials details like name, email, contact number & password.
c. Complainant will receive login credentials though which he can register a complaint by uploading required documents.
d. There are different portals available for different sectors.
e. A consumer can also register complaints through Mobile Apps namely the NCH app, Umang App or Consumer App.
f. Post-registration of the complaint, complainant will be provided with a Unique Identification Number through which he can determine the status of the complaint.
g. Fees for the complaint can be submitted through online payment portal.
What is the requisite fee payable for making complaints?
The Fee Structure as per Consumer Protection (Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions) Rules, 2020 is given as:
of goods and services paid as consideration
Amount of fee payable
Upto rupees five lakhs
Above rupees five lakhs
and upto rupees ten lakhs
Above rupees ten lakhs
and upto rupees twenty lakhs
Above rupees twenty lakhs
and upto rupees fifty lakhs
Above rupees fifty lakhs
and upto rupees one crore
Above rupees one crore
and upto rupees two crore
Above rupees two crore
and upto rupees four crore
Above rupees four crore
and upto rupees six crore
Above rupees six crore
and upto rupees eight crore
Above rupees eight crore
and upto rupees ten crore
Above rupees ten crore
What are the reliefs available to consumers under the Consumer Protection Act?
Consumer courts may grant one or more of the following reliefs:-
a) Repair of defective goods.
b) Replacement of defective goods.
c) Refund of price paid for the defective goods or services.
d) Removal of deficiency in service.
e) Refund of extra money charge.
f) Withdrawal of goods hazardous to life and safety.
g) Compensation for the loss or injury suffered by the consumer due to negligence of the opposite party.
h) Adequate cost of filing and pursuing the complaint.
i) Grant of punitive damages to their grievances in an effective and simple manner.
What are the Offences and Penalties imposed by the Consumer Court?
Incase of false and misleading advertisements, the authority has the power to impose penalty of Rs. 10 Lakhs and imprisonment for upto two years. Further, incase of repeated offences, a fine of Rs. 50 Lakh and imprisonment of upto 5 years.
However, incase where the consumer is injured, the manufacturer, seller or distributor can be fined upto Rs. 5 Lakhs and jailed for upto seven years. In cases, where the consumer has died due to the negligence on the part of the manufacturer, the authority can impose minimum fine of Rs.10 Lakhs and seven years imprisonment, which may be extended life imprisonment.
Thus, it can be concluded by saying that Consumer Protection Act, 2019 is a positive step towards the development of consumer laws. The object of both the acts remain the same, that is, the safeguard of the “Consumer” and their rights.
The New Act vests more power on the District Commission, State Commission and National Commission. Also by revising the respective pecuniary jurisdiction of each commission has helped in reducing the workload of all commissions, especially the National Commission. Further, the introduction of new concept of “Mediation” and “Central Consumer Protection Authority” has helped in providing relief to the aggrieved consumers in an effective and speedy manner. The new act also introduces “Power to Judicial Review”, which allows the commissions to review their judgments rather than filing an appeal and overburdening the courts further.
Moreover, the opposite party needs to deposit 50% of the amount ordered by the District Commission before filing an appeal before the State Commission. Earlier, the ceiling was a maximum of ?25,000, which has been removed. Further, the limitation period for filing of appeals to the State Commission has been increased from 30 days to 45 days.
Therefore, the Consumer Protection Act,2019 is a need of the hour, in this growing world of digitalization to enhance the rights of the consumers to a great extent.
Ms. Natasha Debroy
M/s Aura & Co.