The Lok Sabha on Tuesday passed the Consumer Protection Bill, which seeks to establish the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) to protect and enforce consumer rights.
The Bill will replace the existing Consumer Protection Act, 1986, and in its overarching mandate, aims to provide a mechanism for the redressal of consumer complaints regarding defects in goods and deficiency in services, right down to the level of districts.
The CCPA, on the other hand, is meant to take immediate action after a complaint is filed by even a single consumer, and the authority can also file a class action suit, Union Food and Consumer Affairs Ram Vilas Paswan said while replying to the discussion on the Bill.
“The purpose of the Bill is to ease the process of addressing grievances of consumers. We have been writing to the states and we will continue to take everyone on board to protect the rights of the consumers,” he said.
The CCPA will intervene to prevent consumer detriment arising from unfair trade practices. The agency can also initiate class action, including enforcing recall, refund and return of products. At present the task of prevention of or acting against unfair trade practices is not vested in any authority.
“The problem was that over the years, the commissions and forums had taken the shape and form of courts, with lawyers and pendency etc. Now we have simplified the processes and lawyers are no longer needed to file complaints and fight cases of grievance. Moreover, now there is a provision of class action as well. In case a car’s engine is defective, the provision will be applicable on the entire batch of cars manufactured, and not on one faulty car,” Paswan said.
The Bill also proposes stringent action in case of misleading advertisements against the advertiser but not against the media through which advertisement is being publicised. “Many members here wondered what misleading ads were. I ask them to take a look around Delhi itself. There are ads promising to increase a person’s height in one month or growing hair in three days and so on,” he said.
The Consumer Protection Bill, 2018, was introduced in Lok Sabha in January 2018 and was passed by the House the same year in December. The Bill, pending in Rajya Sabha, lapsed after the Lok Sabha was dissolved.
In its earlier avatar, when the Bill went to the Standing Committee for a scrutiny, there was a recommendation of holding celebrities liable for making false promises about products they endorse. “We have taken the view that celebrities only read what they have been given in the advertising,” Paswan said.
Opposing the Bill, Congress member M K Vishnu Prasad said it would curb the freedom of consumers and trample on their rights.
Alleging that the Bill was not in sync with India’s federalism, DMK’s K Veeraswamy said the Bill provides for “feudal rule, not federal rule”, alleging that it will take away consumer rights.
Jayadev Galla of the TDP said the Bill is silent on surrogate advertising, noting that it is done for products like paan masala and liquor. He said there should be some accountability for celebrities for endorsing products against which consumers make complaints but they cannot be treated at the same level as brands and companies.