CONSUMER PROTECTION ACT, 2019 CAME INTO FORCE ON 20 JULY BRINGING E-COMMERCE IN ITS AMBIT

After almost three decades, the Consumer Protection laws in India has undergone a change, when the Consumer Protection Act 2019 came into force on the 20th of July 2020. The salient features of the new legislation include establishment of the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) in order to protect and promote the rights of the consumers. The Union Minister for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution stated that the new act shall empower the consumers to protect their rights through various notified rules, regulations and provisions like Consumer Protection Councils, Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions, Product Liability, sale or manufacture of products spurious in nature and Mediation.

The authority shall be empowered to conduct investigation in case of violation of consumer rights, institute complaints or prosecution, impose penalties on wrong-doer, unsafe use of goods or services by sellers and discontinuance of unfair trade practices and misleading advertisements.

The Act also consists of necessary rules for the prevention of unfair trade practice by the e-commerce platforms. Every e-commerce entity shall provide information with regard to exchange, warranty, refund, shipment, mode of payment, security of payment methods, country of origin etc. to enable the consumer to make an informed decision before purchasing the product. E-commerce platforms are required to acknowledge the receipt of the consumer complaint within 48 hours and redress the complaint within a period of 1 month from the date of the receipt.

The Act introduces the concept of ‘product liability’ and extends its ambit including the product manufacturer, product seller or a product service provider for any claim of compensation. The Act shall provide a simplified mechanism for consumer disputes adjudication procedure in the consumer forum. An alternate dispute resolution mechanism of mediation has also been provided in the new act. This shall provide a smooth adjudication process as the complaint will be referred by a consumer commission for mediation when a scope for early settlement exists. Further, the act states that there will be no fee for filing a case up to Rs. 5 lakhs. There are provisions for online filing of complaints in the Act. The court shall have the power to suspend any license issued to a person for two years in case of first conviction and cancel the license permanently in subsequent convictions.

Apart from the Act, there are Central Consumer Protection Council Rules, Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission Rules, Appointment of President and Members in State or District Commission Rules, Model Rules, Mediation Rules, E-Commerce Rules, Mediation Regulations, Consumer Commission Procedure Regulations and District Commission Regulations. The Central Consumer Protection Council Rules, in particular are provided to constitute Central Consumer Protection Council which is an advisory body to deal with consumer issues.

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