The Minister for Consumer Affairs, Ram Vilas Paswan, introduced the new Consumer Protection Bill, 2018 in the Lok Sabha. It will replace the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.
The new law will apply to all goods and services, including sale/construction of homes/flats and telecom services. The Bill proposes to bring within its fold all forms of selling – offline/online sales, teleshopping, direct selling and multi-level marketing.
While the earlier law did cover unfair trade practices, the current one makes it more comprehensive. It adds practices such as failure to issue a bill or a receipt, refusal to accept a good returned or refusal to discontinue service within 30 days (if it is so stipulated and requested by the consumer) and disclosure of persol information given in confidence, to the list of unfair practices. It also defines unfair contracts. Issues such as excessive security deposit requirements, pelty for breach of contract which is disproportiote to the loss incurred and refusal to accept early repayment of debt on payment of applicable pelty will now fall under its ambit.
The highlight of the upcoming law is the inclusion of the product liability action. Thus, when a man suffers any harm due to a defect in a product made by the manufacturer, serviced by a service provider or sold by a product seller, he has a right to claim compensation. The Bill lays down circumstances under which the manufacturer, service provider and seller will be held liable.
To promote and protect consumer rights, consumer protection councils at the district, the State and the tiol levels are prescribed under the current law. But this is only an avoiding body and hence does not have powers of enforcement. To overcome this drawback, the new Bill brings in a regulator for consumer affairs, much like SEBI for the markets or the IRDAI for insurers.
Currently, a redressal commission operates at the district, the State and the tiol levels to adjudicate consumer disputes. The new law would provide for an altertive dispute redressal mechanism if there is a chance for a settlement agreeable to the parties to the dispute. The bill calls for setting up of mediation cells attached to the district, the State and the tiol commissions.
We believe, the new bill, 2018 has a wider ambit than the earlier law.
Satish Kumar Sarma,
Kalyanpur, Biswath Chariali.