Mahatama Gandhi once said that “A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favour by serving him. He is doing us a favour by giving us an opportunity to do so”. The digital age has ushered and immensely grown in a fresh new era of e-commerce and brought new customer expectations. The digital age has brought easy access, increased choices and time saving modes of shopping for the consumers.
On December 24th 1986 the Government of India to secure the interests of the consumers enacted the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. Due to the spurt of digitalization, the old Act possessed certain challenges and needed immediate attention. Due to the spurt of digitalization, the old Act possessed certain challenges and needed immediate attention. But the time has come where consumers can witness and cherish the new Consumer Protection Act, 2019 (hereafter referred as 2019 Act) that has recently replaced the three-decade old Consumer Protection Act, 1986. It is a generous legislation that cherishes the consumers rights and remedies. The dictums caveat emptor (buyer beware) and caveat venditor (let the seller beware) propels the seller to take responsibility for item i.e. product and discourages merchants(sellers) from selling the products of the unreasonable irrational quality.
The consumer would now be able to look for redressal against the makers i.e. manufacturers, dealers of products (goods) and the suppliers of various types of services. To ensure protection of the consumers rights as enshrined in Consumer Protection Act, a separate Department of Consumer Affairs was also established in the central and state government.The prior to the enactment of Consumer Protection Act there was no any other legislation to secure the interests of the consumers. Under the Indian Penal Code Agricultural Produce (Grading and Marking) Act, Drugs and Cosmetics Act and Sale of Goods Act the consumer could seek redress. The Consumer Protection Act came as a truly necessary alleviation to the ambushed purchaser. The remedy under the Consumer Protection Act is a more easily and effectively accessible alternative of the already available other Acts
NEED OF CONSUMER AWARENESS :
It is often observed that consumers do not get the right goods and services. They will pay high price and often get. Hence the need to make consumers aware. The following facts characterize the need for consumer awareness:
- To achieve maximum satisfaction: Each person’s income is limited. He wants to buy more goods and services with his income. Only through this limited adjustment can he attain complete satisfaction. Therefore, he should get the measured goods appropriately and should not be cheated. He should be made aware of this.
- Protection against Exploitation: Manufacturers and sellers exploit consumers in a number of ways, such as being underweight, overpriced, and sale of duplicate goods. Big companies mislead consumers with their advertising. Consumer awareness protects producers and sellers from exploitation.
- Control over the use of harmful substances: There are many products available in the market that are harmful to some consumers. For example, we can take things like cigarettes, alcohol. Consumer education and awareness motivate people not to buy things that are too harmful to them.
- Motivation for saving: Awareness controls people from wasting money and motivates them to make the right decision. Such customers will not be attracted by sales, discounts, attractive packing, free gifts, etc. So that people will use the income in the right way and also save money.
- Problem Solving Knowledge: Consumers lacks knowledge due to illiteracy, innocence and lack of information. So that they can be cheated easily. It is therefore necessary to provide them with information about their rights so as not to be deceived by producers and sellers. Through consumer awareness they are also informed of legal actions so that they can solve their problems.
- Building a healthy community: Every member of the community is a consumer. So, if the consumer is aware, the whole society will become healthier and vigilant about their rights.
CONSUMER PROTECTION ACT, 2019 :
To address the new challenges and difficulties faced by consumers in this present society which is digital age our Parliament of India on 6th August 2019, passed the landmark Consumer Protection Bill, 2019 on 6th August 2019. This Consumer Protection Act aim to provide the timely, effective administration & also the settlement of the consumer disputes. The Consumer Protection Act, 2019 got the consent of the Indian President, published in India’s official gazette on August 9th 2019. So, the New Act replaced the old Consumer Protection Act, 1986.
In exercise of the powers which are conferred by sub-section (3) of section 1 of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 (35 of 2019), the Indian Government appointed 24th July 2020 as the date on which the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 shall come into force.
KEY HIGHLIGHTS OF CONSUMER PROTECTION ACT, 2019 :
Definition of Consumer:
In Old consumer protection act definition of consumer was only limited to buying goods or services, it did not talk about online purchase or offline purchase or teleshopping etc. New act has expanded the definition of consumer it includes description about online transactions and offline tractions, teleshopping and multi-level marketing and direct selling.Now new act also covers online transactions old act was also covering online transactions but there was not description included about online and offline transaction in old consumer protection act.
In Consumer protection act 1986 there was no dedicated regulating authority for protection of consumer rights, but in Consumer protection act 2019 Government of India is planning to start new regulating authority named Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA). CCPA will develop easy process or plans for protecting consumers from harms arising from defective products or services and it will also develop process for protecting consumers from unfair trade practices. Main objective of Central Consumer Protection Authority is going to be render advice on promotion and protection of the consumers’ rights under this Act. Also CCPA will have highest powers for recalling of products or withdrawal of services which are dangerous and hazardous or unsafe etc.
Under new Consumer Protection Act, 2019 each state will have State Consumer Protection Council also known as State Council. Also each district will have its own district council which will be governed by District collector.
Improvements in Pecuniary Jurisdiction:
Old limits of pecuniary has been improved in new consumer protection act. In old act district consumer court was allowed to handle cases for goods or services worth value up to 20 lacs only not this limit has been increased up to 1 crore. State Consumer courts were allowed to handle cases for goods or services worth value 20 lac to 1 crore, now in new act this limit has been increased now state consumer court can handle cases having value worth 1 crore to 10 crore and national court will handle cases in which value of goods or services is more than 10 crore.
If we look at new act then we can see that new act has given district and state courts more power now. Consumers will not have to go to national court for getting help which is a really nice improvement.
Concept of Product Liability has been introduced in new Consumer Protection act, 2019. Old act was talking about only physical injuries but new act also talks about mental agony or emotional distress caused by product. For example a product does not injures you but it injures your property and because of that you get into emotional distress then also you can file case against the manufacturer of product. Product manufacturer will also held liable even if manufacturer was not included while selling of the product. So manufacturers will have to manufacture good quality products only.If we look of this new concept product liability then we can see that government is nowforcing manufactures to make good products so consumers can stay protected which a really nice improvement is in new act.
Unfair Trading Practices:
One of the biggest improvement is that new act has broaden the definition of unfair trading practices. New act tells that customer’s private data such should not be disclosed to any other person or organization without discloser from the customer.
New act talks in detail about misleading advertisements or false representation of products. Now not only manufacturer but also endorser will be held liable for misleading or false advertisements. This is a big improvement. Old act did not talk about it in detail. According to new act the fine for misleading or false advertisement for endorser is 10 lac rupees which can extend up to 50 lac rupees and ban on endorser or endorser manufacturer. Also endorser will have to verify the claims that product is claiming before endorsing thet product. If endorser found guilty in investigation of CCPA then he/she will have to pay fine of 10 lac rupees which can be extended up to 50 lac rupees. New act also says that if manufacturer or endorser found guilty they are liable for 2 years imprisonment.
New consumer protection act provides mediation for resolving disputes quickly which makes solving disputes easier than before. Now each state will have mediation cell branches which will help consumer courts to reduce their pressure who already have many pending old cases.
New consumer protecting act tell that ecommerce will be governed under by all laws that applies to direct selling of product or service. Now ecommerce sites will have to disclose their seller’s details such as seller’s contact number, email id, website and detained address etc. to the buyers. Also there are strict penalties for selling counterfeit products on these ecommerce platforms.
OBJECTIVE OF THE CONSUMER PROTECTION ACT, 2019:
“To provide for the better protection of the interests of the consumers and for the said purpose to establish the councils and other authorities for the timely and effective settlement of consumers disputes and for matters connected therewith”.
The Consumer protection Act,1986 was time consuming Act to provide justice to the consumers. The new Consumer Protection Act, 2019 was introduced after several amendments to protect buyers not only from traditional sellers but also from new e-commerce retailers / platforms. The Consumer Protection Act, 2019 establishes the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) whose primary objective will be to promote, protect and enforce the rights of consumers.It is empowered to:
- Conduct investigations into violations of consumer rights and institute complaints/prosecution.
- Order recall of unsafe goods and services.
- Order discontinuance of unfair trade practices and misleading advertisements.
- Impose penalties on manufacturers/endorsers/publishers of misleading advertisements.
CASE LAWS :
The following are the top consumer cases in India based on Consumer Protection Act, 1986 which are dominated by consumer justice:
- Corporate Bodies can be sued under Consumer Protection Act –
Karnataka Power Transmission Corporation (KPTC) v Ashok Iron Works Private Limited.In this case Supreme Court said that “Corporate Bodies can be sued under Consumer Protection Act”.Ashok Iron Works Company applied for obtaining of electricity from the Karnataka Power Transmission Corporation (KTPC) and KTPC granted. The company deposited Rs. 8,40,000 in the corporation. KPTC did not supply electricity even though the company satisfied all the terms and conditions of the contract.The Ashok Iron Works Company then went to the Karnataka High Court to execute the contract, which was granted by the High Court. KPTC has now forced the company to deposit Rs 8,38,000 and an additional Rs 1,34,000. The company deposited that amount also. Supply resumed after a delay of about few months.But the District Forum rejected the complaint on grounds that the company was not a consumer or a person as defined in the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. On appeal, it was reversed in the State Commission and the corporation found guilty of ‘deficiency of service’ towards the company. On review at the National Commission, the judgment of the State Commission was upheld.Then Supreme Court stayed the State Commission’s order asking the corporation to pay Rs.99,900.
- Medical services fall within the scope of the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) –
Indian Medical Association v V.P. Shantha and others.In this case the Indian Medical Association filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court of India seeking to declare medical profession is excluded from Consumer Protection Act, 1986. But a bench of judges of Apex Court ruled that medical practitioner fall under the ambit of “services”.
As a result of this judgment, the medical profession was brought under section 2 (1) of the CPA, 1986, and included the following categories of physicians / hospitals:
- All independent medical / dental practitioners / dentists if only free services are not provided.
- Private hospitals that charge all patients.
- Free and paid patients in all hospitals and all paying and free category patients who are receiving treatment in such hospitals.
- Medical / Dental practitioners and hospitals paid by the insurance company for the treatment of a client.
Furthermore, the judgment states that the summary procedure prescribed by the CPA is only appropriate for obvious cases of negligence, and that in cases with complex issues that require expert evidence to be recorded, the complainant may be required to consult the civil courts. Also, according to this judgment it is determined under CPA that a defect in service means only negligence in the case of medical negligence and by applying the same test applicable in damages for negligence in civil court.
- Medical services must be provided according to the law –
Dr. Arvind Shah vs Kamlaben Kushwaha.The case arises as a result of the death of the 20-year-old son of the complainant Kamalaben Kushwaha due to the medical negligence of the petitioner doctor. The mother alleges that the medication prescribed was not related to malaria, but that the real cause of death was pulmonary edema. The doctor alleged that the deceased had not been diagnosed with malaria because diagnostic tests were required to confirm, and no such report was available to him. The state commission found the doctor guilty of medical negligence and awarded him compensation of Rs 5 lakh with interest at Rs 9 percent, then the doctor appealed to the National Commission.
On appeal, the National Commission found the 2 prescriptions didn’t contain description of patient’s symptoms and also didn’t contain the basic information that the doctor should check in accordance with the guidelines and regulations of the Medical Council of India or the State Medical Council of respective states such as body temperature, pulse rate, blood pressure, etc. If further tests are needed for a diagnosis, such should also be mentioned.
National Commission held that failure to mention essentials on prescription amounted to medical negligence. The Commission recognizes that the availability of such essentials, clinical observations and patient consent, point towards the doctor’s care and attention and act as evidence against trivial cases of medical negligence.
However, due to lack of evidence leading to the death of the patient due to negligence, the National Commission reduced the compensation along with the interest on it to Rs.2.5 lakhs.
- Educational institutions must refund any extra fee paid –
Sehgal School of Competition vs Dalbir Singh.In order to gain admission in the Medical Coaching Center, the petitioner, in this case, had to pay the same amount of fee for two years in the first six months. When the petitioner dropped out from the course in the mid-way due to deficiency in the services, the coaching center refused to refund the remaining amount. Then the State Tribunal, by following the views of the Supreme Court and the National Commission, held no educational institution will charge the lump sum amount for the duration of the entire course and if so, such additional fee should be refunded if the student left the course because of deficiency in services.
- Discovery Rule for medical negligence –
V.N.Shrikhande vs Anita Sena Fernandes.Anita Sena Fernandes (petitioner), alleged negligence of a medical practitioner (Dr. Shrikande), claiming that practitioner left a mass of gauge in her abdomen during the procedure to remove stones from her gallbladder.Following the ‘Discovery Rule’ of the American courts, the Supreme Court ruled that the petitioner had been in pain and discomfort since the operation, for which she continued to take painkillers for 9 years without consulting a doctor. In light of this the court set aside the order of the Commission and dismissed the complaint.
- Under the Consumer Protection Act, both the parents and a minor can claim for the compensation –
Spring Meadows Hospital & Anr vs. Hajrol Ahluwalia.This appeal was filed by a hospital before the Supreme Court defending the negligence of a doctor and nurses who were working in that hospital, which resulted in a minor being in a permanent vegetative state after a brain hemorrhage.The court held that the definition of services in the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 was broad enough to include both parents who pay for services and children who are beneficiaries of the services.
- Imposition of penalty for frivolous consumer claims –
Sapient Corporation Employees Provident Fund Trust vs. HDFC & Ors.In the complaint filed against HDFC for debiting money without the permission of the holder, the National Commission found that the payments were made in accordance with the order of the statutory authority and only after giving appropriate notice to the complainant.For this reason, the Commission imposed a fine of Rs.25,000 on the complainant under the section 26 of CPA, 1986 saying that the complaint was not serious and was filed without proper reasons.
- Compensation to the complainants for trivial appeals –
Delhi Development Authority vs. D.C. Sharma .In case of accidental double allotment of a plot by the Delhi Development Authority, the Commission of State directed the Delhi Development Authority to provide another plot of the same description to the appellant under the same circumstances or to pay the increased price of the plot.
The National Commission dismissed the review petition on the ground that there was no infirmity in the State Commission judgment and ordered it to pay Rs. 5 lakhs for committing unfair trade practices and unnecessarily harassing the respondent for more than 18 years.
- Compensation should not be influenced by sympathy –
Nizam Institute of Medical Sciences vs. Prasanth S. Dhananka & Ors.Prasanth. S. Dhaka (complainant) claimed compensation because of alleged medical negligence by the Nizam Institute of Medical Sciences, which led to partial paralysis of the patient.
The National Tribunal and the Supreme Court have noted that sympathy for the victim should not come when making a decision on compensation. The court ordered the Nizam institute of Medical Sciences to pay a total of Rs 76 lakhs as compensation.
CHALLENGES FOR THE FUTURE :
Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) has been set up to promote, protect and enhance consumer rights. The headquarter shall be in NCR and regional offices shall be decided by the government. The authority shall regulate the violation of consumer rights, unfair trade practices, and misleading advertisements. To enforce and enhance this authority will be dedicated task for the government and its implication will certainly be very important for 2019 Act. While it is laudable initiative but it is unclear as to how this authority will function and certain function relating to investigations and inquiries. There is an overlap between the functions of director General while considering the investigative wing and search and seizure functions. CCPA is empowered to order recall of goods, reimburse price and issue directions and penalize manufacturers or endorsers. Interestingly, appeal against such orders can only be preferred before the national Commission. The circumstances or the criteria under which National Commission shall entertain such cases is till unclear. It is unclear whether the existing cases will be transferred on account of change in pecuniary jurisdiction. However, there are speculations that only fresh cases shall fall under the new jurisdiction.
The New Consumer Protection Act, 2019 came into force on recently on 24th July, 2020. We can say that Consumer Protect Act, 2019, the process of drafting was started in 2010 is one of the sincerest steps taken by the central government for enhancing consumer rights and speedy delivering of justice. The new Act touches on may aspects such as Mediation and E-commerce which the world was unaware in 1986. So, it was important to amend the act when digitalization has changed the way a consumer conduct online transactions and mode of shopping has shifted from offline to online. Certainly 2019 Act is a positive step towards reformation, development and enhancing consumer rights. Socio-economic developments are taking place every year and e can aspect new amendments to 2019 act as well. But the real implementation of 2019 Act will be seen in coming times by analyzing how much relief it offers to the consumers.
I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.
If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.
The copyright of this Article belongs exclusively to Ms. Aishwarya Sandeep. Reproduction of the same, without permission will amount to Copyright Infringement. Appropriate Legal Action under the Indian Laws will be taken.
If you would also like to contribute to my website, then do share your articles or poems at firstname.lastname@example.org
We also have a Facebook Group Restarter Moms for Mothers or Women who would like to rejoin their careers post a career break or women who are enterpreneurs.