Consumer protection act 2019: Guarding interest of consumers

The consumer protection act 2019 (COPRA Act) was enacted and came into force on 1st July 1987 to protect the consumers against deceptive and unfair trade practices. The act ensures that the consumers remain protected from buying defective goods and services and don’t get deceived.

It aims to satisfy its objectives by settling the consumers’ claims by establishing effective administrative and judicial authorities.

The act provides measures for the protection of consumers from unethical market practices.

Now comes the question, who is consumer? So, a consumer is a person buying goods or services to use or consume or making the purchase on the buyer behalf.

Features of the consumer protection act 2019

The consumer protection act 2019 has some salient features. These are:-

  • This act applies to all goods, services and prevents unfair trade practices and unethical practices. Unless specifically exempted by the Central Government.
  • It applies to all private, public or cooperative sectors.
  • It provides for establishing consumer dispute redressal commissions as quasi-judicial machinery at the district, state and central level to deal with consumer grievances and disputes.
  • The establishment of a consumer protection council promotes and protect the rights of consumers.
  • It provides statutory recognition to all the six rights of consumers.

Objectives of the consumer protection act 2019

There are some objectives of the Consumer Protection Act 2019 include:

  1. Providing consumer education among the masses.
  2. Protection against trading of hazardous goods and services
  3. To Inform the consumer with required details about the product’s quality, quantity, standard and price to protect the consumer against unfair trade practices.
  4. Assure access to an authority of goods at competitive prices.
  5. Assure the protection of consumer’s interest at appropriate administrative or judicial offices.
  6. Seek redressal on the issue of unfair trade practices or unethical market practices and protect the consumers from exploitation in a prompt manner.

Consumer rights and responsibilities as per Consumer Protection Act 2019

Rights of Consumer

  • Right to Safety- A consumer has the right to be assured about the quality of buying the product.

    He can insist on the quality and guarantee of the goods. ISI or AGMARK certified products indicate the standard quality of the product in India.

  • Right to Choose products- Consumers should have the right to choose from various goods at a competitive price.

    Consumers should be free to choose between various competitive prices in a market. A particular business house cannot dominate the market or create a monopoly to exploit the consumers.

  • Right to be informed- The consumers get notified of all the necessary details of the product, i.e. quality, quantity, ingredients, manufacturing and expiry date, price, etc.

    The detailed information about goods and services let the consumer make a better decision about buying the product.

  • Education for consumers- Consumers should be educated about their rights to avoid exploitation.

    The education can get provided with the aid of consumer associations, policymakers, educational institutions, etc. The education about various aspects like:-

    1. Relevant laws preventing unfair trade practices and consumer interests
    2. Ways and measures adopted to deceive the consumers.
    3. About getting a bill at the time of purchase
    4. Procedure to file a complaint at the time of deception and contravention of legal provisions
  • Right to be heard- The consumer must get a platform to file his complaints and an appropriate forum to hear their complaints. This right mainly focuses on the consultation with consumers by government and government bodies while making policies and legislation in public interests.

    As per the consumer protection act 2019, Consumers have a right to be heard by manufacturers, dealers, and advertisers about their views on production, marketing decisions, and any grievances they face.

  • Right to seek compensation- The consumer protection act provided the mechanism for the speedy redressal of grievances related to quality, standard, etc., of goods and services. The consumer has the right to seek redressal against unfair and inhumane trade practices or exploitation.

    It also provides a mechanism for redressal of complaints at the district, state and national levels.

Responsibilities of the Consumer

  • Responsibility to be aware– A consumer has to be aware of the safety and quality of products and services. Before making the purchase, the consumer must be aware of the standards of product and services which the merchants should maintain.

    This awareness is necessary to prevent the corrupt practices opted by the manufacturers or traders.

    The quality of the product can get ensured by the certifications like ISI mark, AGMARK, Ecomark, Hallmark, etc.

  • Responsibility to think independently– The consumers have the right to inspect various goods before making the purchase. It enables them to make the best choice within their limited available resources.
  • Be aware of their rights – Consumers should be aware of their rights to exercise them while buying goods and services. It is the consumer’s responsibility to ask for the bill when purchasing goods or services.

    It is also the consumer’s responsibility to make himself aware of all the details of the goods and services.

  • Duty to complain- The consumer’s responsibility to file a complaint about their dissatisfaction with goods or services by following the prescribed procedure.

    The consumers must file a proper claim with the company first, and if the consumer is dissatisfied with the company’s response, he should approach the appropriate forum.

  • Be an Ethical Consumer- The consumer must not be reckless while using the goods and services and should not indulge in deceptive practices.

    The consumer should not use the products to become harmful to their own or someone else’s life and property.

    The products should not be used recklessly in the warranty period to damage it and replace it within that period.

How and when to complain?

The consumer protection act 2019 provides a mechanism to file a complaint on the grounds mentioned below. When a person is dissatisfied with the trader or manufacturer’s product or services, he can file a complaint at the relevant consumer forum.

Section 17 states that a complaint relating to violation of consumer rights or unfair trade practices or false or misleading advertisements may get filed in writing or electronic form to the District Collector, the Commissioner of Regional Office, or the Central Authority.

According to section 21 of the consumer protection act 2019, the Central Authority has the power to issue directions and penalties against false or misleading advertisements.

A consumer can file a complaint only when:-

  • Unfair trade practice adopted by the trader or service provider.
  • Goods bought by them are defective.
  • Unfair and unreasonable prices charged.
  • Goods or services used which are harmful or hazardous.

A consumer or any other authorised person under the Act can file a complaint to the relevant dispute redressal forum. This complaint can be made by an agent or by post.

The complaint must be in written form supported by documentary evidence in support of allegations.

The complaint should specify the relief sought and contain the nature, description and address of the complainant and the opposite party, and the facts relating to the complaint and when and where it arose.

The time limit prescribed for filing the complaint under the act is two years from when the cause of action arises.

Every complaint must get disposed of within three months, and it is extendable up to 5 months.

The jurisdiction of the different consumer dispute redressal forums gets based on the disputed amount of compensation.

  • District consumer dispute redressal forum- If the amount of compensation is up to Rs. 20 lakhs, the dispute will be dealt with at the district level forum.
  • State consumer dispute redressal forum- If the amount of compensation is above Rs. 20 lakhs but less than Rs. 1 crore, the dispute will be dealt with at the state level forum.
  • National consumer dispute redressal forum- If the amount of compensation exceeds Rs. 1 crore, the dispute will get dealt with at the National level forum.

Any person further aggrieved by the decision of the national level forum may approach the supreme court for an appeal within 30 days.

Case study Involving Consumer Protection Act

What should be the guiding principles to be followed to govern disparagement in advertisements?

Dabur India Ltd. v. M/s Colortek Meghalaya Pvt. Ltd.

In the case of Dabur India Ltd. v. M/s Colortek Meghalaya Pvt. Ltd. 2010 DEL 391, the Delhi high court laid down the guiding principles to be followed for an advertisement,

  • An advertisement is a commercial speech protected by Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution.
  • An advertisement must not be false, misleading, unfair or deceptive.
  • The advertisement should be of glorifying the concerned product and not reflect the grey areas.

While glorifying a product in an advertisement, Is it permissible to criticise a rival product?

Horlicks Limited & Anr. vs Zydus Wellness Products Limited

In the case of Horlicks Limited & Anr. v. Zydus Wellness products limited 2020 DEL 873, the Delhi high court held that boasting about one’s product is permissible but criticising or disparaging a rival product is not permissible.

These advertisements may be misleading and disparaging. It is actionable when the information about the rival product cross a boundary line and is untrue.

This type of advertisement can affect the goodwill of the rival company.

Conclusion

The consumer protection act 1986 got repealed and replaced by the consumer protection act 2019. The objective of the 2019 act is also to protect the interest of consumers. It provides for establishing a central consumer protection council that acts as an advisory body on consumer issues.

The act of 2019 addressed the issue of e-transaction on e-commerce platforms about which the previous act was silent.

This act also aims to provide the speedy resolution of grievances within a definite pre-specified time frame. The new act, unlike the previous, provides the measure for ease of filing complaints. An affected party can file a complaint at the jurisdictional consumer forum near the residence or work.

The Consumer Protection Act 2019 also aims to curb unethical marketing and misleading advertisements.

Complaints can get filed online, and the proceeding can get carried on video conferencing.

FAQs Regarding Consumer Protection Act

Which section provides for the establishment of a consumer mediational cell?

The consumer mediation cell gets established under section 74 of the COPRA 2019.

What is the aim of COPRA 2019?

The act of 2019 ensures the protection of the interests of consumers and the establishment of appropriate authorities for timely and effective administration and settlement of consumer’s disputes.

The liability of a product manufacturer is defined under which section of COPRA 2019?

A manufacturer is liable in a product liability under section 84 of COPRA 2019 if the particular conditions laid under this section are satisfied.

What is the punishment for false and misleading advertisements under the act of 2019?

The punishment for publishing false and misleading advertisements is imprisonment up to two years and a fine extending up to ten lakh rupees, and on subsequent conduct, the imprisonment will be for a period of a maximum of five years and fine up to fifty lakh rupees.

What is the punishment for non-compliance of directions of central authority?

The punishment for non-compliance with the direction of central authority will be imprisonment of up to six months and a fine extending up to twenty lakh rupees.

Under which section is the establishment of central consumer protection authority is taken place by central government?

The establishment of central consumer protection authority is the central authority to be done under the section of COPRA 2019

Which chapter Of COPRA 2019 covers the establishment of all three consumer dispute redressal commissions?

Chapter IV.

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