The Consumer Protection Act, 2019 (2019 Act) came into effect following Presidential assent and this Act repeals the previous Act of 1986 which was earlier amended from time-to-time to keep pace with the changing economic and consumer market scenario.
The new Act of 2019 has substantially enhanced the scope of protection afforded to consumers, by bringing within its purview complaints that may arise in the field of advertising and product liability and e-commerce.
Following new additions have been made in this Act.
The definition of “consumer” under the 2019 Act includes those who make purchases online. Endorsement of goods and services, normally done by celebrities, are also covered within the ambit of the 2019 Act. Apart from manufacturers and service providers, endorsers can also be made accountable, to prevent false or misleading advertisements.
The definition of “goods” has been amended to include “food” as defined in the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006. This would effectively bring food delivery platforms with the ambit of CPA 2019.
Telecom service has been added to the definition of “services” to bring telecom service providers within the purview of this Act.
Another significant addition to the Act is “product liability” whereby manufacturers and sellers of products or services have been made responsible to compensate for any harm caused to a consumer by defective products, manufactured or sold, or for deficiency in services.
Another newly introduced dispute area is “unfair contracts”, aimed to protect consumers from arbitrarily biased and unreasonable contracts which lean in favour of manufacturers or service providers.
The definition of “unfair trade practices” has been redefined to include misleading electronic advertising, refusing to take back or withdraw defective goods, or to withdraw or discontinue deficient services, and to refund the consideration within the period stipulated or in the absence of such stipulation, within a period of thirty days. It is now also an offence if any personal information, given in confidence and gathered in the course of a transaction, gets disclosed.
Another important amendment is the change in the jurisdiction to file complaints. Consumers can now institute a complaint at the District Consumer Court where the Complainant resides or personally works for gain. This will ease the burden on consumers who otherwise will be compelled to travel to other parts to pursue their complaints. This is in addition to the other avialable jurisdictions as per previous Act.
Pecuniary jurisdiction for District Forums has been increased to one crore from the current twenty lakhs.
It is however given to understand that the new Act cannot be implemented unless the Rules are formed which is still in the draft process.