An individual who consumes goods or services for self-consumption is called Consumer. However, the term “Consumer” does not include an individual who avails goods or service for free or who obtains a good for resale or a good or service for commercial purchases, or someone who avails service as an employer under a contract of service. The practice of protecting consumers of goods and services against unfair market practises or from corrupt and unscrupulous malpractices by the sellers, manufacturers, etc. is called consumer protection.
In order to protect consumers from corrupt acts of seller some laws have been enacted by the government. The Consumer Protection Act of 1986 was enacted in order to protect the rights and welfare of innocent customers. However, due to globalization and the digital age scenario of markets has changed and a new era of commerce and digital branding has evolved which has given rise to a new set of customer expectations. Thus, it was necessary to adopt a new law that was more effective in protecting consumer rights in every way.
The Indian Parliament passed the Consumer Protection Act of 2019 to meet the new set of difficulties that customers encounter in the digital age, with the goal of providing quick and effective administration and resolution of consumer disputes. Consumer Protection Act, 2019 which came into effect on 20th July, 2020 has replaced the Consumer Protection Act of 1986. This Act places a strong emphasis on consumer rights. The Consumer Protection Act, 2019 consists of eight chapters and 107 sections. The main object of the Act is to protect consumer’s interests by establishing authorities for the quick and effective administration and settlement of consumer disputes.
CONSUMER DISPUTES REDRESSAL COMMISSION
There is three tier quasi-judicial mechanism for resolving consumer disputes under Chapter IV of the Act. They are as follows:
- District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission also known as District Commission.
Section 28(1) of Consumer Protection Act, 2019 provides for the establishment of District Commission in each district of the State. Under this section the State Government is empowered to establish a District Commission. Section 34 (1) of Consumer Protection Act, 2019 lays down the pecuniary jurisdiction of the District Commission. It states that the District Commission have jurisdiction to entertain complaints where the value of the goods or services paid as consideration does not exceed one crore rupees. Proviso to the section 34 (1) provides that if the Central Government thinks it necessary, it may prescribe any other value, as it deems fit.
- State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission also known as State Commission.
Section 42 (1) of Consumer Protection Act, 2019 provides for the establishment of State Commission. Under this section the State Government is empowered to establish a State Commission at state level. Section 47 (1) of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 provides that the State Commission have jurisdiction to entertain complaints where the value of the goods or services paid as consideration, exceeds rupees one crore, but does not exceed rupees ten crore. Proviso to the section 47 (1) provides that where the Central Government thinks it necessary, it may prescribe any other value, as it deems fit. This section further provides that State Commission has jurisdiction to entertain complaints against unfair contracts, where the value of goods or services paid as consideration does not exceed ten crore rupees as well as appeals against the orders of any District Commission within the State
- National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission also known as National Commission.
Section 53(1) of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 provides for the establishment of the National Commission. Under this section the Central Government has power to establish a National Commission. National Commission ordinarily function at the National Capital Region i.e., New Delhi. Section 53(2) provides that National Commission shall perform its functions at such other places as the Central Government may in consultation with the National Commission notify in the Official Gazette. Proviso to Section 53(2) provides that the Central Government may, by notification, establish regional Benches of the National Commission, at such places, as it deems fit.
Section 54 of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 provides for the composition of the National Commission. It states that National Commission shall consist of a President and not less than four and not more than such number of members as may be prescribed.
Section 58 of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 deals with the jurisdiction of National Commission. Section 58(1) states that the National Commission shall have jurisdiction to entertain complaints where the value of the goods or services paid as consideration exceeds rupees ten crore. Proviso to section 58(1) provides that where the Central Government deems it necessary so to do, it may prescribe such other value, as it deems fit. Thus, it gives discretionary power to Central government to prescribe value for National Commission to entertain complaints. This section further provides that National Commission shall entertain complaints against unfair contracts, where the value of goods or services paid as consideration exceeds ten crore rupees as well as appeals against the orders of any State Commission or appeals against the orders of the Central Authority.
Under this section National Commission also has jurisdiction to call for the records and pass appropriate orders in any consumer dispute which is pending before or has been decided by any State Commission where it appears to the National Commission that such State Commission has exercised a jurisdiction not vested in it by law, or has failed to exercise a jurisdiction so vested, or has acted in the exercise of its jurisdiction illegally or with material irregularity.
Section 58(2) states that the jurisdiction, powers and authority of the National Commission may be exercised by Benches and a Bench may be constituted by the President with one or more members as he may deem fit. Proviso to section 58(2) provides that the senior-most member of the Bench shall preside over the Bench.
Section 58(3) provides that where the members of a Bench differ in opinion on any point, the points shall be decided according to the opinion of the majority, if there is a majority, but if the members are equally divided, they shall state the point or points on which they differ, and make a reference to the President who shall either hear the point or points himself or refer the case for hearing on such point or points by one or more of the other members and such point or points shall be decided according to the opinion of the majority of the members who have heard the case, including those who first heard it. Proviso to section 58(3) provides that the President or the other member, as the case may be, shall give opinion on the point or points so referred within a period of two months from the date of such reference.
Under Section 60 the National Commission is empowered to review any of the order passed by it if there is an error apparent on the face of the record, either of its own motion or on an application made by any of the parties within thirty days of such order.
Section 61 gives power to the National Commission to set aside ex parte orders made by it on the application of the aggrieved party.
Section 62 gives power to the National Commission to transfer at any stage of the proceeding, in the interest of justice, any complaint pending before the District Commission of one State to a District Commission of another State or before one State Commission to another State Commission. National Commission can exercise this power either on the application of the complainant or of its own motion.
According to the Consumer Protection Act of 2019, every complaint must be resolved as quickly as possible, and every effort must be made to resolve the complaint within 3 months of receiving notice from the opposing party if the complaint does not require commodity analysis or testing, and within 5 months if the complaint does require commodity analysis or testing.
The Consumer Protection Act also allows consumers to file complaints electronically. The E-Daakhil Portal was created by the Central Government to make it easier for consumers to file complaints online. It provides a hassle-free, quick, and low-cost service to consumers.
In order to provide a faster and amicable means of resolving consumer disputes and to save the time and money of the parties, the Act also contains reference of consumer disputes to Mediation, with the consent of both parties.
- THE CONSUMER PROTECTION ACT, 2019.
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