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A Comprehensive Analysis of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019

Consumer rights refer to those sets of rights, which are essential for protecting the consumer from the unlawful or malpractices of the retailers, seller, wholesalers, traders, service providers etc. These rights enable the consumers to have detailed information related to quality, quantity, purity and standard of the products and provided services. Consumers are major element of any economic system, and their well-being is necessary for the betterment of the most economy.

And hence having sound legislations with adequate checks and balances become essential for the welfare of the consumers. One of the most essential such act was the consumer protection Act, 1986, which was indeed a sincere attempt at bringing in checks and balance to protect the consumers.

However, as a result evolving needs of the industry, globalization of markets and booming of e-commerce industry on a large scale in today's times, the scope of checks and balances had to be broadened, most crucially was the inclusion and protection of consumers on e-commerce platforms. As a result, consumer protection acct 2019 was introduced.

Meaning of the word 'Consumer'

A consumer is an individual or group of individuals who purchase goods and services for their own personal use and not for the purpose of manufacturing or resale. Section 2(7) of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 defines a consumer as any person who buys goods or services in exchange for consideration and utilizes such goods and services for personal use and for the purpose of resale or commercial use.

In the explanation of the definition of consumer, it has been distinctly stated that the term 'buys any goods' and 'hires or avails any services' also includes all online transactions conducted through electronic means or direct selling or teleshopping or multi-level marketing.

Need of The Consumer Protection Act, 2019

  • The digital Age has ushered in a new era of commerce and digital branding, as well as a new set of customers' expectations. Digitization has provided easy access, a large variety choice, convenient payment mechanism, improved services and shopping as per convenience. However, there are also associated challenges related to consumer protection.
  • To help address the new set of challenges faced by consumers in the digital age, the Indian parliament passed the landmark consumer protection bill, 2019 which aims to provide timely, and effective administration and settlement of consumer disputes.
  • Consumer protection Act, 2019 is a law to protect the interests of the consumers. This Act provides safety to consumers dis satisfactory service, and unfair trade practices.
  • The basic aim of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 is to save the rights of the consumers by establishing authorities for timely and effective administration and settlement of consumers disputed.
  • The number of pending lawsuits in customer court and significant postponements in delivering prompt service, it has infringed the rights granted to the consumer and has unreasonably prolonged the disposal of minor or petty issues. The urgent need of the moment was to enact a consumers feel protected. The Consumers Protection Act 2019 received approval from the parliament as well as the president on 9th August 2019. to mete out speedy justice to the aggrieved consumers as well as seal up the deficiencies of the repealed act intends to eliminate anomalies and Consumers are confronted with a variety of issues. Mediation, for example, is an innovative process. Besides the creation of a Consumer Information Centre Class action lawsuits, Security Authority etc.

Shortcomings of The Consumer Protection Act, 1896.
Besides the technological advancements, there were also a couple of shortcomings in the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.

They were as follows:
  1. As per Section 13 (3A) of CPA, 1986 the time period mandated for disposal of cases was 3 months in normal cases and 5 months if there is a need for procedural testing of goods. But the fact be that due to heavy backlog of cases and arbitrary and not frequent adjournments, these timelines are not observed seriously. This makes the process not only time consuming but also heavily draining people's pockets. This refrains the affected consumers from adopting the course of justice and instead they prefer bearing out the consequences if their rights are breached.
  2. One of the prime reasons in delay of cases are the prevailing vacancies in various Consumer Forums. They include various members of the consumer courts including the presidents, who play a vital role in adjudicating the cases.
  3. Also there has been an erroneous practice while appointing members of the Consumer Forum. They usually delegate a person without necessary qualifications and then train them for the purpose they have been appointed. As a result, the appointed people end up not having the adequate skill and knowledge to carry out their tasks, and this makes the entire members cannot coordinate well among themselves and bring in differences and procedural delays. This itself contributes to malfunctions of the forums.
  4. Also, the president is not conferred with the power to take Suo-moto cognizance of the cases if some disputes have the potential to impact a large size of the population. For instance, misleading advertisements or online frauds which can rope in a huge chunk of the population in a limited span of time. This power becomes necessary as it can act as a preventive measure, thereby acting as a protective shield for the mass.
  5. In an attempt to uproot these shortcomings, and bring in some reformation to the laws which were not so promising under the 3-decade old Consumer Protection Act, 1986. Consumer Protection Act, 2019 was Introduced. The recent statistics projected by the E-Commerce cell projected that nearly 70% of the population who have access to the internet facilities are bound to stop online, a trend especially seen in metropolitan cities with the number being as high as 329 million. Hence this reformation was a must.

There Exist Six Rights of a Consumer under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019. The rights of the consumers are mentioned under Section 2(9) of the Act, which are as follows:

  1. The right of a Consumer to be protected from the marketing of goods and services of are hazardous and detrimental to life and property.
  2. The right of a consumer to be protected Against Unfair Trade practices by being aware of the quality, potency, purity, standard and price of goods, products, or services.
  3. The right to a consumer to have access to a variety of goods, services, and products at competitive prices.
  4. The right to seek redressal at respective forums against unfair and restrictive trade practice.
  5. The right to receive adequate compensation or consideration from respective consumer forums in case they have been wrongful by the seller.
  6. The right to receive consumer education.

The definition of a consumer as per the 2019 amended act has been modified to incorporate the buyers who purchase goods directly through the online business platforms. This was one of the major lacunae which was prevalent in the 1986 Act.

Unfair Trade Practices under Consumer Protection Act, 2019
Section 2(47) of the Consumer Protection act, 2019 defines the term 'Unfair Trade Practices' which includes:
  1. Manufacturing spurious goods or providing defective services.
  2. Not issuing cash memos or bills for the goods purchased or services rendered.
  3. Refusing to take back or withdraw the goods or services and not refunding the consideration taken for the purchase of the goods or services.
  4. Disclosing the personal information of the consumer.

Consumers benefits from Consumer Protection Act, 2019
The Consumer Protection Act, 2019 is a significant piece of legislation brought ass it is beneficial for the consumers.

The Act widens the scope of protecting regarding the rights and interests of consumers.
  1. Unfair Contracts: The Act introduced 'Unfair Contract' under Section 2(46) of the Act, which includes contracts requiring excessive security deposits to be given by the consumers for the performance of contractual obligations. However, the includes unfair contract in the Act would enable the consumer to file complains in such cases and would also keep the fraudulent businesses in check.
  2. Territorial jurisdiction: The Act enables the consumers to file complaints where the complainant resides or personally works for gain thus would benefit the consumer in seeking redressal for their grievances when their rights have been violated.
  3. False and misleading Advertisements: The Act defines the term 'False and misleading Advertisement' and also lays down strict penalties for such acts or omissions.
  4. Product Liability: The term 'Product Liability' has been defined by this Act, which states that it is the duty of the product manufacturer, service provider or seller to consumer by such defective product manufactured or service provided to the consumers.
  5. Mediation and alternative dispute resolution: The Act Enables the consumer to opt for mediation and alternative disputes resolution mechanism for speedy and effective settlement of consumer disputes.
  6. E-filing of Complaints: The act also facilitates E-filing of the complaints and seeking video conference hearings by the commission. Thus, providing convenient means for the consumers to voice their grievances.
Offenses and penalties under Consumer Protection Act, 2019
The offenses and penalties listed under this Act are mentioned as follows:
  1. Punishment for false and misleading Advertisements: Under Section 89 of the Act, any Manufacturer or services provider who promotes false or misleading advertisement for a term that may extend to two years and with fine that may extend to ten lakh rupees.
  1. Punishment for manufacturing, selling, distributing products containing adulterants: Under Section 90 of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 any distributes products containing adulterants shall be penalized in case of the following circumstances:
    • If the adulterated product does not cause any injury to the consumer, then the term for imprisonment will extend to a period of six months and fine which may extend to one lakh rupees.
    • If the product containing adulterant cause injury not amounting to grievous hurt, then the term for imprisonment will extend to a period of one year and fine which may extend to three lakh rupees.
    • If the product containing to grievous hurt, then the term for imprisonment will extend to a period of seven years and fine which may extend to five lakh rupees.
    • If the product results in causing death to the consumer, then the term for the imprisonment will be for a period of seven years which may extend to life imprisonment and fine not less than ten lakh rupees.
  1. Punishment for the manufacturing, selling, and distributing spurious products: Section 91 states that any person who sells, manufactures or distributes spurious product shall be punished for such acts.

Important Case Laws
Sapient Corporation Employees V. HDFC Bank Ltd. & Ors. (2012)

In this case, a consumer complaints were filed by Sapient Corporation Employees Provident fund trust against HDFC Bank Ltd. The complainant claimed that OP- bank has committed deficiency of services by debiting the account of the complaint. The court in this case held that there was no deficiency of arguments contented by the complainant are baseless. A behavior that conforms to the direction of regulatory authority cannot be said to be negligence or service deficiency.

Horlicks Ltd. V. Zydus Wellness Products Ltd. (2020)
In this case, both parties are manufactures of nutritional brinks, however, Zydus advertised a television commercial trivializing the products of Horlicks Ltd. The commercial was being telecast ad in various languages including English, Tamil and Bengali. Therefore, the Delhi High Court relied on various judgments on misleading Advertisements, disparagement and law governing the publication of advertisements on television and held that the advertisement is disparaging as it does not provide any concrete proof regarding the quality of the product. Further, electronic media leaves an impression on the minds of the viewers thus, these types of advertisements would not only be deter-mental to the consumers but also the complainant would suffer irreparable damage.

A famous judgment relied on by Delhi High Court while deciding this case is Pepsi Co. Inc. V. Hindustan Coca Cola Ltd, 2003 where the Delhi High Court held that there are certain important factors that are to be kept in mind in case of disparagement which are, manner of the commercial, intent of the commercial and storyline of the commercial.

The Consumer Protection Act, 2019 is a modified piece of legislation that offers the consumers a great variety of benefits and rights to protect them from unfair trade practices, false or misleading advertisements, etc. The Act enables the consumers to seek alternative disputes resolution mechanisms and mediation to that the parties can opt for speedy and effective settlement of consumer disputes.

The scope of e-filling of complaints and e-consumers in the Act portrays forward-thinking in part of the legislature. Furthermore, the Act also introduced new terms such as product liability, unfair contracts, etc. Thereby widening the scope of protection of consumer rights and enabling the consumers to file complaints when their rights have been violated under the Act.

Thus, the inclusion of the provisions in this fills up the lacunae in the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. the enactment of the act was paramount, and it changed the ambit of protecting the rights of consumers in the country.

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