In ancient India, efficient mechanisms were put in place to protect customers against market crimes. Ancient law-givers were adept at describing numerous types of unfair economic practices and prescribing harsh penalties for wrongdoers. Adulteration and falsified weights and measures were mostly prosecuted. Some Muslim monarchs built well-organized market procedures to monitor pricing and the supply of goods to the marketplaces during the medieval period. The modern legal system was brought to India during the British period, and several laws were enacted to defend the rights of consumers in general. The Contract Act of 1872, the Sale of Goods Act of 1930, the Penal Code of 1860, the Drugs and Cosmetics Act of 1940, and the Agriculture Procedure (Grading and Marketing Act) of 1937 were some of the laws passed during the British regime concerning consumer interests. Consumers were given explicit legal protection under these statutes. The civil justice system is riddled with flaws preventing consumers seeking legal help. Thereby, in order to have effortless access to justice and to make it cost effective looking at the larger interest of consumer, the enactment of Consumer Protection Act 1984 came into picture. However, the 1986 Act, was unable to keep up with the current consumer's problems due to progressive technological improvements. Thus, a need was recognized to substitute the old Act which led in the enactment of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019. The Consumer Protection Act, 2019 notified on 9th August 2019, came into force on 20th July 2020 has a goal of empowering consumers and assisting them in safeguarding their rights through numerous notified Rules and requirements, as well as simplifying the consumer dispute adjudication process in consumer commissions. The new Consumer Protection Act of 2019 addresses the issue of making a complaint from any location, as well as the right to know why complaints are rejected.
The definition of consumer consists of enhanced meaning as per the latest amendment. As per Section 2(7) of the Consumer protection Act, 2019, consumer can be defined as a person who buys any goods for a consideration which has been paid or promised or partly paid and partly promised, or under any system of deferred payment and includes any user of such goods other than the person who buys such goods for consideration paid or promised or partly paid or partly promised, or under any system of deferred payment, when such use is made with the approval of such person, but does not include a person who obtains such goods for resale or for any commercial purpose” or “hires or avails of any service for a consideration which has been paid or promised or partly paid and partly promised, or under any system of deferred payment and includes any beneficiary of such service other than the person who hires or avails of the services for consideration paid or promised, or partly paid and partly promised, or under any system of deferred payment, when such services are availed of with the approval of the first mentioned person, but does not include a person who avails of such service for any commercial purpose. “Thus, a consumer will now mean any person who “buys any goods” and “hires any services” which shall include both online and offline transactions through electronic means, teleshopping, direct selling or multi-level marketing.
Understanding the meaning of the term "consumer" does not put an end to the legal process. It is essential to consider and develop a simple way for consumers to make a complaint from their home or workplace. Therefore, as per the Section 35(1) of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019, consumer is permitted to file complaints electronically or through the process of E-filing. The proceedings and evidence can be done through video-conferencing thereby giving procedural ease and reducing
hassle for the consumers. Further, a consumer can also file the complaint from wherever he resides rather than relying on territorial jurisdiction. Section 17 of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 also states that a complaint relating to violation of consumer rights or unfair trade practices or false or misleading advertisements which are prejudicial to the interests of consumers as a class, may be forwarded either in writing or in electronic mode, to any one of the authorities, namely, the District Collector or the Commissioner of Regional Office or the Central Authority. Conclusively, the new act provides for the better protection of consumer right taking into consideration of technological advancement.
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Our legal system obviously values the right to know and the opportunity to be heard. Both of these concepts are important in enhancing consumer requirements and even attempting to establish openness in the legal sphere. As per section 36(2) of the Consumer Protection Act, no commission can reject a complaint without hearing the complainant. The commission may even enable video conferencing to be used to hear a complaint. Furthermore, no commission has the authority to dismiss a case without first hearing the plaintiff. The commission has been granted the authority to decide whether a complaint should be accepted or rejected. This power, however, must be used
within 21 days after receiving the complaint. The complaint is automatically acknowledged if the commission fails to reject it within the specified time frame. Even a customer has a right to know why his or her complaint was turned down.
A. Inclusion of Unfair Trade practices: The introduces Unfair Trade Practices definition, and gives privacy to Consumers for information they share in confidence. Any disclosure has to be made in accordance with the provisions of any other law.
B. Procedure for Appeal altered: The Opposing Party has to deposit 50% of the amount ordered by the District Commission before filing an appeal to the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, as opposed to the earlier maximum amount of Rs. 25,000/-, as the old ceiling has been made redundant.
C. Inclusion of E-commerce transactions: Under E-commerce transactions are included for adjudication under direct sales.
D. Mediation as an ADR: Under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019, Mediation has been introduced as an alternate mode of dispute resolution.
E. Augmented Penalties: In Consumer Protection Act, 2019, the CCPA imposes a penalty of up to Rs. 1,000,000 on a producer or an endorser, for a false or deceiving advertisement, as also a sentence for imprisonment for up to 2 years is provided for. A repeat offender may get penalized Rs. 5,000,000 and face imprisonment of up to 5 (five) years.
Given the current era of technology, the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 is a much-needed adjustment in favour of consumers. It provides them with clearly defined rights and a dispute resolution process that allows them to get their grievances resolved quickly. Every consumer must be aware of their rights and the remedies available in the event of a violation of those rights. Sellers and manufacturers will take efforts to guarantee that they are never involved in disputes over abuses of consumer rights if customers in a country are enthusiastic about standing up for their rights. With a new change to consumer social legislation, it is now easier than ever to call out sellers and manufacturers' faults and unethical practices. It is now responsibility of every customer to ensure their own well-being.
1. Consumer Protection act, 2019