Recently, Rajya Sabha passed the new Consumer Protection Bill. The new law will provide additional powers to consumers. Among other provisions, Bollywood & Cricket celebrities can now be fined up to Rs 50 lakh and 5 years in jail for endorsing false ads and products.
This makes India the first country in the world to penalize brand ambassadors and endorsers to protect a consumer’s rights.
- Right to complain from home
The new law enables you to file a consumer case from your place of work or residence. Earlier, a case could only be filed where the seller had its office or the place where the purchase was made. The Consumer Affairs Ministry seeks to introduce filing of cases online, including digital money transfers of the requisite fee.
- Right to seek compensation under product liability
It was difficult to hold the seller or manufacturer accountable for selling a defective item. Now, complaints can be filed against them if any loss or harm is caused to the buyer due to a defective product. Service providers also fall under its ambit. A manufacturer has to ensure that the product is free of defects and conforms to the specifications. If not, they can be prosecuted.
- Right to receive a refund within 30 days
As per the new consumer protection law, a seller who refuses to withdraw or refund goods or services within 30 days, will cause a breach of consumer rights.Has your refund got delayed? Raise a complaint via resolver.in
- Right to take action as a class
A complaint of a violation of a consumer right, which prejudices the interests of consumers as a class, can be forwarded to the District Collector, Commissioner of Regional Office, or Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) for a class action. This means that instead of an individual, a group of consumers can file a joint complaint.
- Right to seek case hearing through video conferencing
Earlier, consumer case hearings only took place inside the courtroom. In a bid to digitize court proceedings, courts will now welcome requests for hearing through video conferencing. Examination of parties can also take place through a video call.
- Right to know the reasons for rejection
Earlier, a consumer complaint couldn’t be rejected citing an alternative remedy. Now, mediation centers will be set up adjacent to the consumer fora. The commission will now be empowered to refer parties to mediation after rejecting the case, or as an alternative remedy while the case is ongoing.
- Right to protect personal data
Sharing personal data of consumers is now considered as an unfair trade practice. Sellers cannot leak private information of a consumer without their consent.
- Right to a fair contract
A contract between a buyer and seller will be considered unfair if it causes prejudice to the consumer’s rights. High security deposits, unreasonable charges, refusal to accept early repayment of loans, etc. are some terms and conditions which can put the seller under the scanner.
Commissions can also advise the parties to go for mediation. This provision was previously missing from consumer law. E-commerce has also been recognized as a service in the new consumer protection bill.
New authorities and penalties under the Consumer Protection Bill
Apart from these rights, the Consumer Protection Bill, 2019 also introduces a new set of hierarchy and the monetary capacity of consumer forums to hear cases.
Now, the District Consumer Forums will be able to hear complaints of value up to Rs 1 crore. State commissions will hear complaints of value ranging from Rs 1 crore to Rs 10 crores, and the National Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission will hear cases of value above Rs 10 crore.
In case of unfair contracts, the State Commissions will hear complaints where the value is up to Rs 10 crore, and National Commissions will hear complaints above that value. Appeals from the NCDRC can be made to the Supreme Court.
Non-compliance of an order from the forums can invite a penalty up to Rs 1 lakh.
The central government will set up a Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) to promote, protect and enforce the rights of consumers. New Consumer Protection Councils (CPCs) at the district, state, and national levels will be set up as advisory bodies. These bodies will be able to investigate consumer complaints. For non-compliance of an order, the seller can be asked to pay up to Rs 20 lakhs as fine.
Click here to check out more stories.