New Consumer Protection Bill introduced in LS

New Consumer Protection Bill introduced in LS

A bill seeking stringent action against adulteration to protect consumers in the highly competitive e-commerce and direct selling areas was introduced in the Lok Sabha by Consumer Affairs Minister Ramvilas Paswan on Friday.

The new Consumer Protection Bill, 2018, that seeks to replace the 31-year-old Consumer Protection Act, also has provisions to establish a Central Consumer Protection Authority, with powers to initiate class action, including   enforcing recall, refund and return of products

The Bill has strong provisions to check adulteration and false or misleading advertisements, besides providing for fine up to Rs 50 lakh and jail up to five years for manufacturers and service providers. Against adulteration, the Bill has provisions for fine up to Rs 10 lakh and life term imprisonment.

The objective of the Bill is to "provide for protection of interest of consumers and establish authorities for timely and effective administration and settlement of consumer disputes."

"This fills an institutional void in the regulatory regime extant. Currently, the task of prevention or acting against unfair trade practices is not vested in any authority," Paswan said.

Besides setting up an Authority, the Bill has provisions for product liability action on account of harm caused to consumers due to a defective product and deficiency in services. It also has provisions for 'mediation' as an alternative dispute redressal mechanism.

Adjudication simplified

Paswan noted that the emergence of global supply chain, rise in global trade and rapid development of e-commerce have led to a new delivery system for goods and services and also provided new options and opportunities for consumers.

"Equally, this has rendered the consumer vulnerable to new forms of unfair trade and unethical business practices. Misleading ads, tele-marketing, multi-level marketing, direct selling and e-commerce pose new challenges to consumer protection and will require appropriate and swift executive intervention to prevent consumer detriment," he said.

The Bill has several provisions aimed at simplifying the consumer dispute adjudication process of the consumer dispute redressal agencies, besides enabling consumers to file complaints electronically.

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