Marketing & Sales
MISLEADING OF ADVERTISEMENTS AND HOW IT IMPACTS THE CONSUMERS.
*This paper gives a brief overview of the new Consumer Protection Act of 2019 and the rights it provides to consumers and also gives an overview of how a complaint could be filed in a District Forum under this act. *
The Consumer Protection Act, enacted by the Indian Parliament in 1986 contains 31 Sections and provides consumers with 6 rights that are available to them to protect them “from the exploitation and to save them from adulterated and sub-standard goods and services and to safeguard the interests of the consumers.” Since 1986, this act has been amended three times and now contains a total of 107 Sections in order to protect the consumers. The Consumer Protection Act, 2019 has come really far and now it can be decisively said that the days of consumer beware are over and now it’s time for the sellers to beware of the practices they follow. Some new features of the Consumer Protection Act are:
- The inclusion of Ecommerce Transactions: The new Act now covers transactions of all kinds whether it be online or offline and considers all electronic means to come under the ambit of transactions. A person purchasing any kind of service, or a product will be considered as a consumer.
- The introduction of E-filing of complaints: The new Act allows consumers with the facility of lodging complaints with a competent consumer forum that could be located at their place of residence or work. There is also a provision in the Act that now allows consumers to file their grievances electronically or through video conferencing and it can be used for listening to the involved parties as well as for questioning them. This helps in greatly simplifying the procedure of filing of complaints and also reduces inconvenience for the consumer.
- The enhancement of Pecuniary Jurisdiction: The new Act has also introduced new pecuniary limits for the jurisdiction of their various bodies. The district platforms shall now resolve grievances where the amount of products does not exceed Ten Million Rupees. The State Commission shall resolve grievances whose amount is above Ten Million but under One Hundred Million and for any amount higher than One Hundred Million, the National Commission shall exercise its jurisdiction.
- The establishment of the CCPA (Central Consumer Protection Authority): The new Act talks about the establishment of the CCPA which would be a regulatory authority which would be able to undertake investigations in cases where the consumer law is breached. They possess the powers to recall products, cancel licenses, file class action suits, order refunds and even issue penalties in cases of misleading advertisements.
- Provisions for Alternate Dispute Resolution: The new Act has included Mediation as an alternate dispute resolution tool which would help in making the process of dispute adjudication much easier and much faster as well. Mediation in which the parties try to discuss their disputes in the presence of an external third person who is trained for this and impartial. This process helps in the easier settlement of disputes and also takes away a lot of burden off the courts that may already have a lot of pending cases.
- Inclusion of Unfair trade Practices: The new Act has also introduced the concept of unfair trade practices that is to be enforced. It includes situations such as when the personal information of a consumer which was supposed to be in confidence is shared or made public without it being explained by any provisions of any other law.
Aside from these new features, The Consumer Protection Act also provides consumers with a set of six rights that they possess for their protection as consumers. These rights are:
- Right to be protected against goods and services that may be detrimental to their property or life: Consumers have a right to be protected against losses caused by such items. Low-quality food products, such as fruits, milk, and bread, as well as appliances made with defective or low-quality raw materials, would be regarded hazardous to their wellbeing.
- Right to be informed: In order to safeguard consumers from unfair trade practices, consumers should be informed about the quality, quantity, potency, purity, standard, and price of goods and services. As a result, a producer is expected to offer all of this information in a timely and accurate way so that the customer is not deceived.
- Right to choose: Right to have access to a wide range of products and services at reasonable costs, wherever feasible. A customer also has the right to get all relevant information before making a purchase decision.
- Right to representation: Consumers have the right to be heard and assured that their views will be taken into account in relevant venues. The consumer has the right to register a complaint against anything that is harmful to his interests under this right. The importance of the first three rights may be explained if consumers have the right to complain about goods and services.
A consumer's complaint has the right to be heard. Companies have responded to this by establishing distinct service cells or centres to allow consumers to be heard. This helps in the redressal of their issue. An example of this can be observed in Cadbury chocolates, which states that if a consumer is not satisfies with the quality of the product, then it can be returned to their respective consumer service cell.
- Right to seek redressal: Consumers have the right to seek redressal against unfair trade practices and unscrupulous exploitation of consumers. Several redressals are available to the consumer by way of compensation, such as free repair of the product, taking back of the product with refund of money and changing of the product by the seller. If the quantity and quality of the product do not conform to those promised by the seller, the buyer has the right to claim compensation.
- Right to consumer education: Consumers have to educated about this right, if not the rights mentioned above can’t be used to help the consumers. The government has made a number of steps to educate consumers as customers must be informed of their rights to compensation for losses incurred as a result of products and services acquired.
How to file a consumer complaint in a district forum:
In cases of a violation of consumer rights any consumer can approach the District Forum and if not satisfied they can appeal in higher courts as well. Only a consumer can file a consumer complaint and according to Section 2(1)(d) of the Consumer Protection Act a consumer is anyone who buys any goods or services for a consideration or consumes goods bought by another person but with their approval. Certain other persons and entities as well can file a consumer complaint and they are mentioned below:
- A voluntary consumer association.
- A group of consumers having the same interests.
- Central or State governments.
- Legal heirs of a deceased consumer.
The procedure for filing a complaint is as follows:
- The first step is to determine the jurisdiction of the complaint. As stated earlier, a District Forum complaint should not exceed One Crore Rupees.
- The next step is to serve a legal notice to the opposing party after which the complaint can be filed in the respective consumer redressal forum.
- The fee requirements for filing a consumer complaint are as follows:
- Cases of value up to Five Lakh Rupees: No Fee.
- Cases of value between Five Lakh to Ten Lakh Rupees: Rs. 200.
- Cases of value greater than Ten Lakh Rupees: Rs. 400.
- The Complaint should be made in writing to the District Forum or online as well as provided by the amendment.
- The Complaint should be made within 2 years of the date when the dispute arose, and the complainant should file four copies of the complaint as well as additional copies for the opposing party.
- The complaint should contain the following details:
- The Names and addresses of both the parties.
- The date of purchase of the goods or services, their details and the amount paid for them.
- The subject for complaint. (Unfair trade practice, deficiency in service, defective goods etc.)
- The necessary documents of the transaction. (Bills, receipts etc.)
- The relief that is being sought.
- The signature of the complainant or an authorized agent.
- The fee for the complaint should be paid in a demand draft to the President, Consumer Disputes redressal Forum, (name of) district.
Following all these steps, a consumer can file a consumer complaint as per the Consumer Protection Act 2019 and can seek redressal for malpractice or for the violation of their rights as a consumer.
- Ayushi Mishra, Consumer Court Complaint under Consumer Protection Act, 2019, Taxguru.in (Jan. 28, 2020), https://taxguru.in/corporate-law/consumer-court-complaint-consumer-protection-act-2019.html