The Lok Sabha Thursday managed to pass two bills before adjourning for the day amid protests by Opposition parties including Congress and TDP on various issues.
Amid the uproar, the two bills which were passed were – the Consumer Protection Bill, 2018 and the National Trust for Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities (Amendment) Bill, 2018.
The Consumer Protection Bill, 2018 would replace the 1986 Act. The bill enforces consumer rights and provides a mechanism for redressal of complaints regarding deficiencies in goods and services.
The bill was introduced in the Lower House January this year.
“The Bill, which replaces the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, is a non-controversial bill,” said Union Consumers Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan piloting the Consumer Protection Bill, 2018 for consideration and passage.
“Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions will be set up at the District, State and National levels for adjudicating consumer complaints,” he said.
Under the provisions of the new Bill, consumers can make their complaints from their homes, without the requirement of a lawyer. Also, there is a provision for mediation.
Paswan said that if complaints are not heard within 21 days, they will automatically be admitted.
The bill states that “any manufacturer or service provider who causes a false or misleading advertisement to be made which is prejudicial to the interest of the consumers shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years and with fine which may extend up to 10 lakh rupees.”
Further offences may lead to a jail term of 10 years and a fine of up to Rs 50 lakh.
The new bill will ensure faster dispute redressal for consumers and will allow Central government to regulate e-commerce and direct selling among other important measures.
The bill also provides for product liability action, which means a complaint filed by a person before consumer court for claiming compensation for the harm caused to him on account of a defective product or service.
Here are the major takeaways of the legislation
* The amended law aims to set up the Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions as quasi-judicial bodies to adjudicate disputes.
* The bill will set up a Central Consumer Protection Authority to promote, protect and enforce consumer rights as a class. It can issue safety notices for goods and services, order refunds, recall goods and rule against misleading advertisements.
* The Bill empowers the central government to appoint, remove and prescribe conditions of service for members of the District, State and National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions.
A consumer who suffers an injury from a defect in a good or a deficiency in service will have the power to file a claim of product liability against the manufacturer, the seller, or the service provider.
* Consumer Protection Councils will be set up at the district, state, and national level, as advisory bodies.
The bill defines contracts as ‘unfair’ if they significantly affect the rights of consumers. It also defines unfair and restrictive trade practices.
* Appeals from the District Commissions will be heard by the State Commission, and from the State Commission by the National Commission. Appeals from the National Commission will be heard by the Supreme Court.
The Commissions will attempt to dispose of a complaint within three months if the complaint does not require analysis or testing of commodities.
* The bill also provides for mediation cells 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.