The Consumer Protection Bill, 2017 seeks to enlarge the scope of the existing law and make it more effective and purposeful. Discuss the key features of the new Bill and highlight any shortcomings.

 

Approach:

  • Introduce with the new Bill and how it is in line with the present day’s requirements
  • Discuss the key features of the Bill like the new Authority, provisions on Ads etc.
  • Suggest some shortcoming like establishing liability, provisions on services etc.
  • Conclude appropriately
Model Answer :

The Consumer Protection Bill, 2017 seeks to replace the archaic Consumer Protection Act, 1986. It takes into account the changing nature of the Indian economy and the emergence of global supply chains, rise in international trade and the rapid development of e-commerce that have led to new delivery systems for goods and services.

Key features of the Bill:

  • Central Consumer Protection Authority: For the first time, India will have a Central Consumer Protection Authority, which will act as a national regulator for the protection of consumer rights. The agency will have the power to take suo moto action.
  • Class Action suits: It will introduce class action lawsuits to India. (A “class action” lawsuit is one in which a group of people with the same or similar grievances/injuries sue the defendant as a group.)
  • Powers to take action: The Bill has a provision for product liability and provides enough powers to the regulatory authority to recall products and cancel licences if a consumer complaint affects more than one individual.
  • Protection of online consumers: There are provisions dealing with disputes that pertain to online purchase. At present, the law is not clear on refunds or dispute settlement for online shoppers.
  • Handling misleading ads: The new bill also has provisions that subscribe hefty penalties and jail terms for adulteration and misleading advertisements by companies. Celebrities have been prohibited from endorsing such advertisements by making them accountable for their actions.
  • ADRs: It also has provisions for “mediation” as an alternate dispute resolution (ADR), thus making the process less cumbersome, simple and quicker.

Issues:

  • The Bill requires that a claimant, in order to claim product liability, must establish four kinds of defects in the product, the injury caused from it, and that it belonged to the manufacturer. This puts unreasonable burden on the claimant.
  • The conditions to be proven to claim product liability do not include conditions for services.  It is unclear how a consumer can claim product liability for deficiency in services under the Bill.
  • The Bill empowers the central government to supervise the functioning of, and issue binding directions to the district, state and national consumer redressal commissions.  This could affect the independence of these quasi-judicial bodies.

The new consumer protection framework an efficient piece of legislation, keeping pace with the new market dynamics. The issues highlighted above need to be addressed to make the Bill more purposeful.

Subjects : Yojna summary

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