Consumer Protection Bill, 2018 to provide protection to consumers

New Delhi: The Consumer Protection Bill, 2018 which was passed in Lok Sabha on Thursday will provide protection of the interests of consumers and establish authorities for timely and effective administration and settlement of consumer’s dispute.

The Bill replaces the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, enforces consumer rights and provides a mechanism for redressal of complaints regarding defect in goods and deficiency in services.

Moving the Bill for its passage, Union Minister for Consumer Affairs Ramvilas Paswan said the Bill was non-controversial and was in the interest of the consumers and is above partisan politics.

As per the Bill, Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions will be set up at the district, state and national levels for adjudicating consumer complaints and appeals from the district and state commissions will be heard at the next level and from the national Commission by the Supreme Court.

The Bill says if a consumer suffers an injury from a defect in a good or a deficiency in service, s/he may file a claim of product liability against the manufacturer, the seller, or the service provider. It defines contracts as “unfair” if they significantly affect the rights of consumers.

The Bill also defines unfair and restrictive trade practices and establishes Consumer Protection Councils at the district, state and national levels to render advise on consumer protection.

It sets up the Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions as quasi-judicial bodies to adjudicate disputes and empowers the central government to appoint members to these commissions. The Bill does not specify that the commissions will comprise a judicial member.

If the commissions were to have members only from the executive, the principal of separation of powers may be violated, said the Bill.

The Bill sets up Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions (consumer courts) to hear complaints on matters like defect in goods or deficiency in services, unfair or restrictive trade practices, excessive pricing, knowingly selling goods or providing services that do not meet safety norms, and product liability.

Such complaints can be filed electronically and from where the complainant resides or works.

“These Commissions will be set up at district, state and national level, with pecuniary jurisdiction up to Rs one crore, Rs one crore to Rs 10 crore, and above Rs 10 crore, respectively. In case of unfair contracts, the state commissions will hear complaints where the value is up to Rs 10 crore, and national commissions will hear complaints above that value. These commissions can declare unfair terms of such contracts to be null and void,” said the Bill.

The commissions will attempt to dispose of a complaint within three months, if the complaint does not require analysis or testing of commodities, said the Bill, adding if analysis and testing is required, the complaint will be disposed of within five months.