The government seeks to pass the Consumer Protection Bill, 2018 to replace the previous consumer protection act which was introduced in 1986. Minister for Consumer Affairs Ram Vilas Paswan asked the members of Lok Sabha to pass the bill without any delay and debate because it has revolutionary measures to help the consumers. The bill was first introduced in August 2015 In Lok Sabha and it was referred to a standing committee. The committee gave its recommendations and a new draft was prepared with corresponding changes. The new bill was introduced in the parliament in January this year but it is yet to pass. “It (the bill) is pending since January. The parliamentary standing committee has gone through it carefully. I request all of you to pass the bill without any debate. The consumers are facing problems in getting their rights. The new Consumer Protection Bill which is pending in the Lok Sabha has many provisions to help the consumers,” Paswan elaborated.
A bill being introduced after more than three decades of the previous shows the unserious behavior of previous governments towards consumer rights. The rise of e-commerce, changing logistic and supply chain conditions and the exponential rise in global trade over the last few decades have made the previous consumer protection legislation largely irrelevant. “This has rendered the consumer vulnerable to new forms of unfair trade and unethical business practices. Misleading advertisements, tele-marketing, direct selling and e-commerce pose new challenges to consumer protection and will require appropriate and swift executive intervention,” the Minister said while stressing the need for replacing the existing act when he introduced the bill in January.
The bill has provisions for creation of Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) to ensure the rights of the consumers and promote them. It will have independent regulatory authority like that of TRAI for telecommunication and SEBI for Securities market. The framework for CCPA is prepared on the lines of Federal Trade Commission, the American consumer protection agency. The CCPA will be empowered to investigate, recall, refund and impose penalties on companies for violating the rules and regulations. The independent body and a new bill were required to adopt the sweeping changes that consumer markets have gone through since 1986. An independent agency will be more flexible towards adopting future changes which are expected in upcoming decades due to exponential rise of online shopping and internet marketing in the country.
The bill has provisions for financial penalty and jail penalty for false and misleading advertisements. A failure to comply with the orders of the authority can lead to imprisonment of six months or a fine of 20 lakh or both. The proposed bill also has provisions for product liability action on account of harm caused to consumers due to a defective product or deficiency in services. It also has clause to set up Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions as quasi-judicial bodies to adjudicate disputes and consumer protection councils will be set up as the district, state, and national level as advisory body. One problem with the bill is that it empowers the central government to appoint, remove and prescribe conditions of service for members of the District, State and National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions which could lead to a tussle between central and local authorities. But once the CCPA is constituted it will be able look after the problems that emerge in consumer protection.
The proposed legislation addresses many burning issues in the consumer rights so it should be passed and CCPA should be constituted as soon as possible. The previous bill does not have provision for product liability while this provides this right to the consumer. The unfair contract, e-commerce, penalties and regulatory aspects are also updated. The consumer in the country has been cheated for long time due to unfair regulatory practices and with the passing of this bill and creation of CCPA is expected to solve this problem.