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The Role and Impact of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 in Safeguarding Consumer Rights

The movement for consumer rights started since the Vedic period with a trader or a service-provider oriented approach where honesty and integrity in business was mandated by law. Even in the Indian independence movement similar approach was advocated by Gandhi which can be seen by his protest on taxation policies which taxed essential consumer goods like salt. Gandhi promoted the idea of business having a trustee role in being responsible to the consumers. He said that:

"A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent upon us. We are dependent upon him. He is not an interruption in our work  he is the purpose of it. We are not doing him a favour by serving him. He is doing us a favour by giving us the opportunity to serve him."

From the viewpoint of consumer-oriented approach, the planning commission backed
the formation of Indian Association of Consumers in 1956. Many more organisations were founded over the years which advocated for the rights of the consumers with Consumer Guidance Society of India (CGSI) established in 1966 and Consumer Education and Research Centre (CERC) established in 1978 are the most prominent ones. It was because of intensive lobbying of these two institutions that the Consumer Protection Act of 1986 was passed.

It is an act to provide for better protection of the interests of consumers and for that purpose to make provision for the establishment of consumer councils and authorities for the settlement of consumers' disputes. The said act is of paramount importance for the consumer rights. It was the first act passed by the parliament for the protection of the rights of the consumers. It evolved after great lobbying from the consumer protection organisations.

The act protected the consumers from unfair trade practices and provides platform to address and resolve the issues of the consumers. It had been observed that the rights of the consumers were harmed and the consumers because of unfair and biased trade practices were suffering losses. It was also observed that in order to earn more profits many a times the quality of the articles and goods were substandard which could lead to health issues or pose a danger to the consumers in certain conditions.

Thus, to safeguard the consumer and protect his rights the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 was passed for the first time, which was later amended in 2019 introducing many new robust provisions like e-commerce and mediation. The Consumer Protection Act, 2019 provided legal protection to the consumers and established special courts to ensure speedy disposal of the consumer related disputes.

With changing needs of the society and changing times, the requirement of new aspect of regulation in this disclipine was felt by the parliament in 2019. Hence, they came up with the new act which empowers the consumer even against the electronic malpractices that takes place using the e-commerce modes. Moreover, in order to lessen the burden on the litigation and Indian Judiciary System, many new tribunals and mediation panel were established under the act of 2019.

Objective of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019:

  1. To provide the Consumers safeguard against the promotion of goods that pose a risk to property and human life.
  2. To protect consumers from unfair trade practices, provide information about the potency, amount, standard, purity, and price of the products.
  3. Create Consumer Protection Councils to safeguard consumers' rights and interests.
  4. Access to goods at affordable prices.
  5. By establishing authorities for the speedy and efficient administration and resolution of consumer issues.
  6. Making Consumers aware of their Rights.

Rights of Consumer

According to the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 consumers have six rights.

In accordance with Section 2(9) of the Act, consumers have the following rights:

  1. The right of a consumer to be shielded from the promotion of products and services that are dangerous and harmful to property and life.
  2. The right of a consumer to be shielded from unfair trade practices by being informed about the standard, price, potency, purity, and other characteristics of the commodities, services, or products.
  3. The consumer's right to affordable access to a wide range of products, services, and goods.
  4. The right to complain against unfair and restrictive trade practices in the appropriate forums.
  5. The right to fair recompense or consideration from the appropriate consumer forums if the seller has harmed them.
  6. A person's entitlement to consumer education.

Analysing Access to Justice under The Consumer Protection Act, 2019:

  1. Unfair Contract:
    Contracts that require disproportionate protection from customers in order to carry out their contractual obligations are regarded as unfair contracts under Section 2(46) of the Act. Consumers would be able to report such situations and the dishonest companies would be kept in check if unfair contracts were included in the Act.
  2. Territorial Jurisdiction:
    Consumers can file complaints under the Act regardless of where they reside or where they are employed, which enables them to get their grievances resolved when their rights have been violated.
  3. False and Misleading Advertisements:
    The term "false and misleading advertisements" is defined in the Act, and it also imposes severe penalties for such acts or omissions.
  4. Product Liability:
    The manufacturer, service provider, or seller of the product is liable for any losses a consumer may have sustained as a result of a defective product they purchased or a subpar service they received, as defined by the definition of "product liability" set forth in this Act.
  5. Mediation and Alternative Dispute Resolution:
    The Act allows customers the choice to speedily and effectively address their issues through mediation and other forms of alternative dispute resolution.
  6. E-filing of Complaints:
    The Act also makes it simpler to schedule video conference hearings with the Commission and submit complaints electronically, providing a convenient way for customers to voice their issues.

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