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Consumer Protection Bill, 2018 Key Highlights

The new Consumer Protection Bill, 2018("Bill") aiming to replace the present Consumer Protection Act, 1986("Act") is passed by the Lok Sabha on 20th December, 2018. The major highlights of the Bill are mentioned as follows:-

A. Newly Added Provisions
1.E- Commerce and Electronic Service Provider:
The Bill defines buying or selling over digital or electronic network/platform.

2. Introduction of Central Consumer Protection Authority:

a. A national level regulating authority introduced to handle matters relating to violation of rights of consumers,unfair trade practices and false or misleading advertisements which are prejudicial to the interests of public and consumers.

b. To promote, protect, and enforce the rights of consumers as a class, i.e. it will take into account all customers who have been affected by a particular product/service of a company;
c. Powers: (i) issue safety notices; (ii) pass orders to recall goods, prevent unfair and restrictive trade practices; (iii) reimburse purchase price paid; and (iv) impose penalties for false and misleading advertisements. It may also file complaints before the Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions.

3. Product Liability:

The Bill allows a person to make a claim of product liability against a manufacturer, seller, or service provider for any defect in a product or deficiency in a service. A claim for compensation may be made for any harm caused, including: (i) property damage; (ii) personal injury, illness, or death; and (iii) mental agony or emotional harm accompanying these conditions.

4. Unfair Contract

A contract is said to be unfair if it causes significant change in the rights of the consumer, and can be declared null and void by the Forums. It includes the following:
(i) requiring excessive security deposits;
(ii) imposing a disproportionate penalty for a breach in contract;
(iii) refusing to accept early repayment of debts;
(iv) terminating the contract without reasonable cause;
(v) transferring a contract to a third party to the detriment of the consumer without his consent; or
(vi) imposing unreasonable charge or obligations which put the consumer at a disadvantage.

5. Mediation Cells

Mediation cells will be attached to the District, State and National Commissions. The Commissions may refer a matter for mediation if the parties consent to settle their dispute in this manner.

B. Change In The Existing Provisions
1.Pecuniary Jurisdiction of Forums:
a. District Forum: Up to Rs one crore.
b. State Commission: Between Rs one crore and up to Rs 10 crore
c. National Commission: Above Rs 10 crore

2. Penalties:

Non-compliance of orders of the Commissions, he may face imprisonment upto three years, or a fine not less than Rs 25,000 extendable to Rs 1, 00,000, or both.
3.All goods and services, including telecom and housing construction, and all modes of transactions (online, teles hopping, etc.) for consideration.

4. Unfair Trade Practice:

Addition in the definition of Unfair Trade Practice:
(i) failure to issue a bill or receipt;
(ii) refusal to accept a good returned within 30 days; and
(iii) disclosure of personal information given in confidence, unless required by law or in public interest.
5.Definition of ‘Deficiency’:

The Bill expands the definition of ‘deficiency’ to include:-
(i) any act of negligence or omission or commission by such person which causes loss or injury to the consumer; and
(ii) deliberate withholding of relevant information by such person to the customer.

6. Consumer Protection Councils:

The Bill sets up Consumer Protection Councils (CPCs) at the district, state, and national levels as advisory bodies. The Councils will advise on promotion and protection of consumer rights.

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