Food and Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan expressed his disappointment over the Consumer Protection Bill, 2018, not being passed by Parliament despite his “wholehearted efforts” in the last four years.
“A lot of efforts were made to get it passed in the Lok Sabha. However, unfortunately it could not be passed in the Rajya Sabha,” Paswan said inaugurating an FE Round Table Conference on ‘Consumer Protection: Way Forward’.
He said there was an urgent need to change the law since current Act was enacted in 1986. The Bill has provision for establishment of an executive agency — Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) — to promote, protect and enforce the rights of the consumers as a class. It was to be empowered to investigate, recall, refund and impose penalties. The CCPA could have dealt with unfair trade practices and misleading advertisements. Besides, provision was there for taking suo moto cognisance. The minister also said that the government could have taken care of grievances of doctors in the Bill, had it been pointed out earlier.
He underlined several other provisions of the Bill including mediation, misleading advertisements and inclusion of imported products. The Bill will now lapse with the end of the tenure of the 16th Lok Sabha. After the formation of the next government, the same Bill may be re-introduced or there will be another law-making exercise from the scratch.
Paswan had introduced the Bill in the Lok Sabha in January last year and it was passed in December. However, due to continuous disruption of the Rajya Sabha in the Budget session, the Bill could not be passed in the upper House. As the current Consumer Protection Act, 1986, was to undergo several amendments close to 100, the law ministry had suggested to draft a new Bill and to repeal the existing one.
In 2011, an attempt was made to amend the 1986 Act with provisions like enabling consumers to file online complaints, and against unfair terms in a contract. However, the amendment Bill lapsed with the dissolution of the 15th Lok Sabha. After NDA came to power, a Consumer Protection Bill, 2015, was introduced in Lok Sabha to replace the 1986 Act. It went through the Standing Committee on Consumer Affairs, which recommended several additions. One of the major recommendations of the committee to award jail term for brand ambassadors for endorsing fake products, was not accepted by the government.
The Bill also sought to establishment of Consumer Protection Councils at the district, state and national levels to render advice on consumer protection.
It has provision for mediation as an Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR). On the lines of state and national commissions, the government wanted to rename the district level consumer forum as District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission.
— With inputs from FE