“The new law, with the consumers’ peace of mind in focus, will ensure that complaints can be filed at a district or the State consumer forum from the location where the complainant resides rather than from where the service was availed or product was bought,” A Sankar, executive director of Empower India Centre for Consumer and Environment Education, Research and Advocacy, told DT Next.
The new Act replaced the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.
“Today, e-commerce firms have grown into a major traders and there are several issues arising out of it. For the first time, it has been brought under the purview of the Consumer Protection Act,” Sankar added.
The pecuniary powers of district and State Consumer Redressal Forums have been enhanced by 10 times. “Under the previous Act, a district commission could handle only cases up to Rs 10 lakh while it was Rs 1 crore for the State forum. But now, district for a can handle cases up to Rs 1 crore and State forum can handle cases up to Rs 10 crore,” he explained.
S Saroja, director, Citizen Consumer and Civic Action Group, added that for the first time, the Centre has taken misleading advertisements into account. “Celebrities who endorse a product would be held responsible under it,” said Saroja.
Unfair contracts are specifically defined in the new Act to prevent arbitrary contracts and to prevent unfair trade practices. It also introduces mediation centre and e-filing.
“When an aggrieved consumer wants raise an issue, they can first approach mediation centres to resolve it before approaching the courts. Filing cases has been made online, which is a great relief for consumers,” she said.
There, however, are some concerns as well. “The main problem associated with consumer courts is the delay in completion of cases for which adjournments are the main reason. The Act had failed to address that,” Saroja pointed out.