By Yash Mittal, Advocate at MP High Court on November12, 2019

The exchange of goods and services in the market had developed the idea of consumer protectionism, which means the consumer should not be cheated by the seller with the respect to goods or services supplied to him. The consumer Protection Act, 1986 was the first legislation which aims to provide protection of the interests of the consumers through establishing consumer courts and councils. But, with the drastic changes in the trading activities, a plethora of new products and services have been emerged in the modern market place. The advancement of e-commerce, tele-marketing, multi-level marketing, etc. also made the application of old act vulnerable for the protection of consumer interests. Therefore, in order to relinquish the vulnerabilities of the consumer, the Parliament has passed the new consumer protection legislation known as “The Consumer Protection Bill 2019” which has been duly converted into an Act through the assent of the President of India.

Who is consumer?
A consumer is defined as a person who buys any good or avails a service for a consideration. It does not include a person who obtains a good for resale or a good or service for commercial purpose. It covers transactions through all modes including offline, and online through electronic means, teleshopping, multi-level marketing or direct selling.

What are the rights of a consumer?
Under the Consumer Protection Act, a consumer has certain rights such as:
(i) be protected against marketing of goods and services which are hazardous to life and property;
(ii) be informed of the quality, quantity, potency, purity, standard and price of goods or services;
(iii) be assured of access to a variety of goods or services at competitive prices; and
(iv) seek redressal against unfair or restrictive trade practices.

How the consumer grievances be addressed?
Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions (CDRCs) has been set up at the district, state, and national levels. A consumer can file a complaint with CDRCs in relation to: (i) unfair or restrictive trade practices; (ii) defective goods or services; (iii) overcharging or deceptive charging; and (iv) the offering of goods or services for sale which may be hazardous to life and safety. Complaints against an unfair contract can be filed with only the State and National Appeals from a District CDRC will be heard by the State CDRC. Appeals from the State CDRC will be heard by the National CDRC. Final appeal will lie before the Supreme Court.
The District CDRC will entertain complaints where value of goods and services does not exceed Rs one crore. The State CDRC will entertain complaints when the value is more than Rs one crore but does not exceed Rs 10 crore. Complaints with value of goods and services over Rs 10 crore will be entertained by the National CDRC

Establishment of Central Consumer Protection Council:
The central government has set up a Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) to promote, protect and enforce the rights of consumers. It will regulate matters related to violation of consumer rights, unfair trade practices, and misleading advertisements. The CCPA will have an investigation wing, headed by a Director-General, which may conduct inquiry or investigation into such violations.

CCPA will carry out the following functions, including: (i) inquiring into violations of consumer rights, investigating and launching prosecution at the appropriate forum; (ii) passing orders to recall goods or withdraw services that are hazardous, reimbursement of the price paid, and discontinuation of the unfair trade practices, as defined in the Bill; (iii) issuing directions to the concerned trader/ manufacturer/ endorser/ advertiser/ publisher to either discontinue a false or misleading advertisement, or modify it; (iv) imposing penalties, and; (v) issuing safety notices to consumers against unsafe goods and services.