By Reetika Wadhwa and Nishtha Das
The Central Government vide its notification dated July 15, 2020 brought into force certain set of provisions under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 which would become effective from July 20, 2020. Some of these provisions include protection and enforcement of consumer rights through Central Consumer Protection Authority, prevention of unfair trade practice by e-commerce platforms, punishment for sale of adulterated products, etc.
Consumer Protection Act, 2019- Provisions
To elaborate further, the following provisions of the Act have been brought into force through the above notification:
- Section 2: This section covers the fundamental part of the Act i.e. the definitions of various terms. Various definitions including that of consumer, consumer rights, complaints, consumer disputes have now been brought into force. However, terms like direct selling ecommerce are yet to be formally affected.
- Section 3 to 9: These sections cover the object and procedure for various Consumer Councils established under the Act.
- Section 28 to 73: These sections talk about the entire legal framework, operational procedure, jurisdiction, etc. for the District Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission, and similarly the State Commission and National Commission.
- Section 74 to 81: These sections introduce the Consumer Mediation Cell and establishes the conduct to be followed for settlement of consumer disputes through Mediation.
- Section 82 to 87: These sections cover the term Product Liability and its implications. They establish a procedure where a consumer can bring out product liability action against the manufacturer of the product or the service provider. According to the Section 84 of the Act, a product manufacturer will be liable in the following circumstances:
- when the product contains a manufacturing defect;
- when the product is defective in design;
- when there is a deviation from manufacturing specifications;
- when the product does not conform to the express warranty;
- when the product fails to contain adequate instructions of correct usage to prevent any harm or any warning regarding improper or incorrect usage.
Interestingly, the product manufacturer shall also be held liable for product liability action even if he proves that he was not negligent or fraudulent in making the express warranty of a product.
Subsequently, Section 85 of the Act lays down the following circumstances where a service provider can be held liable:
- when the service provided by him was faulty or imperfect or deficient or inadequate in quality
- when there was an act of omission or commission or negligence or conscious withholding any information which caused harm;
- when the service provider did not issue adequate instructions or warnings to prevent any harm
- when the service did not conform to express warranty or the terms and conditions of the contract.
On the similar lines, product liability action has also been covered for a product seller apart from manufacturer and service provider. Therefore, with the enforcement of these sections, from now on, the product seller has also been brought under the purview of the Act.
- Section 90 and 91: These Sections provides for the provision of imprisonment and penalties in case of manufacturing for sale or storing, selling or distributing or importing products containing adulterant or spurious products.
- Section 95, 98, 100 and 101: Miscellaneous provisions like these have now been brought into force.
Also, as per media reports, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs has issued a statement clarifying the following points which will soon be enforced through a gazetted notification:
The Consumer Protection Council will be empowered to carry out investigations in respect of consumer rights violations and accordingly institute complaints in this regard. Further, the Council can order for prosecution or order for recall of unsafe goods and services in furtherance to the inspection or investigations carried out by the Council.
Liability for e-commerce entity
E-commerce entity shall be liable for mentioning such information including but not limited to country of origin, return, refund, exchange, warranty and guarantee, delivery and shipment, modes of payment, grievance redressal mechanism, payment methods, security of payment methods, charge-back options. Additionally, the e-commerce entities will be reuired to address a consumer complaint within 48 hours of receipt of complaint and resolve the issue in entirety within a month. However, the said requirements imposed on the e-commerce entity are yet to be officially notified through publication in gazette.
The Act would also bring endorsers under the garb of consumer protection laws and would prosecute endorsers for getting involved or engaging in a false or misleading advertisement. This would rightly propagate the phrase “with fame comes responsibility”. Recently, well known celebrities like Jackie Shroff and Govinda were held liable by a district consumer court for endorsing a misleading advertisement for a pain relief oil.
Place of complaint filing
The complainant shall now be able file a consumer complaint electronically. The place of residence for the complainant shall have the jurisdiction to try such complaint. The matter shall be heard through videoconfrencing and it shall be deemed admissible, if its admissibility is not decided within 21 days.
It is pertinent to mention that the above provisions will not only empower the consumers but will give them the needful opportunity for their complaints to be rightfully addressed within a condensed timeframe. Also, the responsibility for e-commerce entities has risen and their operational structure is going to be framed in a consumer oriented manner. Nevertheless, this would maintain the balance of quality products and would also help to boost the Indian economy after being strongly impacted by the COVID 19 pandemic wave.
 Notification – S.O. 2351(E)