ROLE OF CONSUMER PROTECTION ACT IN PROTECTING THE RIGHTS OF CONSUMER IN INDIA

TIME T0 GO AHEAD WITH NEW UNDERSTANDING

INTRODUCTION

Consumer Protection Act (CPA) 2019 which replaced the 1986 act is a piece of legislation that proved a milestone in ensuring a speedier, convenient and more user friendly justice. This act aims at addressing grievances that relate to non standard goods to deficient services that are promised but are not provided with. This act has one aim of providing justice through quasi judicial forums like Dispute Resolution System at national, state and district level and it even incorporates alternate disputes resolution system.


FORUM PECUNIARY JURISDICTION[1]

District - Less than Fifty lakh

State - Between 50 Lakh And 2 Crore

National - More Than 2 Crore

The 2019 act incorporated the institution of Central Consumer Protection Authority(CCPA) The 2019 act incorporated the institution of Central Consumer Protection Authority(CCPA) along with provisions for new tech driven economy. The act understand the role of advocacy and awareness in consumer protection regime. The act through its subsequent rules from time to time is also trying to create more legal nodes in different sectors so that more nodal officers are at the option of the people who can cater to their greivances.


THE MINISTRY OF CONSUMER AFFAIRS, FOOD AND PUBLIC DISTRIBUTION

The ministry comes under department of consumer affairs. The CPA cannot work in silos and it gets strengthened through various other legislations. This ministry has tried to strengthen consumers protection and empowerment by enacting the following in the previous year alone:

Consumer Protection (Direct Selling) Rules, 2021 (and guidelines of 2016 have been withdrawn) by which Pyramid Scheme or money circulation scheme (member making business and pooling money and not having actual business and benefiting former members at the cost of new members) has been prohibited.

E-Consumer Protection (e-Commerce) Rules, 2020 for regulating e flash sales (inducing customers to buy things by offering limited time high discounts) and protecting the consumers from unfair trade practices.

Legal Metrology Act, 2009 (1 of 2010) and the rules framed thereunder which aims at standardising weights and measures and helping making businesses more fairly competetive and ease for consumers purchasing experience.


SCOPE OF THIS ACT

The consumer protection act is not domain specific it has its application in almost every sector whereby a consumer is paying for something like Electricity, Medical services, Insurance sector, Commerce, Banking transaction, Real estate, Telecom Companies, Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMGC), Tourism Industry or the hospitality sector and beyond.

All the domains enumerated above are also governed by rules that are made from time to time for effective governance and even different laws refer to provisions of CPA.


HOW JUDICIARY HAS STRENGTHENED THE CONSUMERS

The judgements by the different courts of nation describe the scope of the act by their interpretation:

Samruddhi Co-operative Housing Society Ltd. Versus Mumbai Mahalaxmi Construction Pvt. Ltd. Civil Appeal No 4000 of 2019 [2]in this case the defaulting construction company erred by not providing the occupation certificate which was its duty as per the agreement. Due to this non performance of the duty the plaintiffs had to bear monetary expenses over and above and faced difficulty with the municipal authorities it was said that not providing the certificate was deficiency in service and hence under the ambit of this act.

Also the judgement Dr. Niraj Awasthi Versus Shri Jagdish Bharti(d) Thru Lrs[3] allowed the payment as given ex gratia but not as compensation after the death of the litigator. This is important for the people because many a times the person spends his whole life in a case and even wins it but at the time of getting fruits of the judgement he may leave for heavenly abode and the defaulters may argue that with the person the right exhausts but this judgement honours the efforts of the deceased soul of waiting for the justice and awarded the money to legal heirs.


ISSUES AND NEW TRENDS

With advanced technology issue of privacy, cyber crimes and monetary frauds are on increase. Misleading advertisement are a big problem because we see big stars promote even non legal tenders and thus inducing many to invest. Standardisation of products is still a work which will take years for completion. Prices of services and products is another grey area which has not got a serious deliberation for example the auto rickshaw drivers are still away from the practice of using meters as a rule and public is not expected to fight before every trip he/she goes out for. In a new state when a person travels and in peak season, from the hotel to auto rickshaw driver all charge exhorbitant prices, these are real life issues. We need mechanism where problems are heard then and there and solved immediately. We have to admit that many a problems are going unnoticed and people loose their wealth and even then not get services upto mark and no one wants to get tangled in legalities and procedures. India is one of the fast growing e-markets in the world. Owing to the huge population of the nation and with an evident fact that India is producing highest number of unicorns the country needs a robust legal framework. Due to covid-19 pandemic the online availment of event health related products and services is increasing, virtual shopping of goods and services, loan and insurance, the approach of forums need to be revised.


SOLUTION

Technical problem need technical answer and expertise at the same time. If economy is not to suffer then pace of justice dissemination has to be modernised with the new means and technology. Governance necessarily has to become modern with modern equipments. We need innovations faster and one fit all must not be the norm, methods in pilot project modes should be allowed and depending on its success it should be implemented elsewhere because technology is changing every second. Region specific methods must be encouraged. Also personnel must be increased for example a tourist destination must have a official always approachable so that people can get their greivances solved immediately. Prices must be set for hotels as well and mandatory display on boards should be made a law.


NEED OF CHANGE

The decision of Kamlesh Moses vs Safdarjung Hospital must be revisited. The consumer courts must include in its ambit the hospitals which provide free of cost services because their are people who cannot afford it owing to their financial incapacity and right to health is for all. Also public hospitals run on tax payers money so effectively they get paid from people’s pocket so there seems no reason why they not under ambit of consumer courts. The very classification seems arbitrary and denying right to many from availing benefits of a legislation.


CONCLUSION

The act has solved many problems over the time by solving issues without getting tangled in the legal nuances but over the time it is also becoming burdened and the time of filing and time of disposal see a huge time lag. We need to act innovatively. Consumers need to be made conscious that they need a optimum performance of service for each penny they shed. We can achieve this onlywhen a robust system working 24*7 is functioning and which works with the motto of consumer is king without discriminating on the basis of monetary capacity of the consumer because the act does not sets a minimum ceil for lodging complaints. Complaining about wrong and then participating in its procedure is costlier than availing a new service provider or purchasing new products even today and this scenario should change. Time is money and the trend of consumer forums taking as much time as courts of India is alarming and immediate change in policy framework is needed.

[1] https://consumeraffairs.nic.in/sites/default/files/232278.pdf [2] https://main.sci.gov.in/supremecourt/2019/11334/11334_2019_34_1501_32532_Judgement_11-Jan-2022.pdf [3] CIVIL APPEAL NO.8694 OF 2013



This article is written by Poonam Maurya of Amity University.

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