What are the recent changes brought out in the Consumer Protection Act?

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Point out the scope and applicability of Consumer Protection Laws and the enforcement of Consumer Protection Act in India.

Few profound amendments to the original Act, i.e. consumer protection Act made in the year 2002.  By enacting the Amendment Act, the name of the Act renamed as  Consumer Protection (Amendment) Act, 2002,

One important and essential amendment made in the amendment Act was conferment of conferred the First Class Magistrate’s powers to the Consumer Forums or Commissions, however, Gazette notification in this regard not yet issued, without which, the Consumer Forums could not exercise such powers conferred on them by the Act, this is one lacuna.

The other major amendment made to Section 11 which deals with pecuniary jurisdictions of all the consumer forums was enhanced, by which the District Forum now can deal with the complaints with claim amount up to 20 lakhs, like wise, State Commission with claim amount up to 1 crore and National Commission with claim amount more than 1 crore.  Due to this provision, the number of cases before State Commission and National Commission may get reduced and assists in quick disposal of the cases.

Section 12 has been modified by stating that every complaint should be filed along with the prescribed fee so that the district forum will decide whether to admit or reject the complaint within 21 days from the date of receipt of the complaint.

Amendment was made to Section 13 which required District Forum to  send a copy of the admitted Complaint to the Opposition Party within 21 days from the date of admission of the Complaint to submit his version within the prescribed time.  Amended Section 13 found to be very vital and powerful as it provides both an ex-party order against Opposite Party and dismissal of Complaint against Complainant for nonappearance.

A new subsection added to this Section 13 which states that complaint should be heard expeditiously within 3 months period form the receipt of notice by the Opposite party, also reasons to be recorded for each adjournment, and should not be granted ordinarily, also in certain circumstances, costs to be ordered for granting adjournments.  Also, Forum should record the reasons for the complaint that disposed after the prescribed period.

Subsection 3B included which has given power to District Forums to pass interim orders whenever required.

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Inclusion of Subsection 7 which enables the parties to substitute legal heirs in the event of death of any of the parties to the Complaint as per provisions of Order XXII of the First Schedule to the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908.

Section 19A has been inserted which mandates the State Commission and National Commission to dispose the appeals within 90 days from the date of admission.

Scope, Applicability and enforcement of Act

The provisions of the Act covered both goods and services.  The goods covered under this Act are those that are manufactured, produced and sold through them directly or through sellers.  The services referred under this Act are medical services, postal services, insurance, housing, Advocate services, Communication, transport, electricity, banking, etc., any service done for consideration by the service provider, come under the scope of the Act.  The Consumer Protection Act enacted especially to protect the rights of the innocent consumers. In order to protect the interests of the consumers, the Act provided consumers an opportunity to address their grievances and speedy disposal of the cases.  The Act also provided the establishment of Consumer Protection Councils at all the levels including District level, State level and National level for promoting the awareness of the consumer rights and education to the end users of goods and services.  Also, Act provided the establishment of three-tier quasi-judicial machinery in the form of Forums in the District level and Commissions in State and National Level to deal the complaints effectively and speedily.

Recently in 2015, the Cabinet endorsed another Consumer Protection Bill 2015 that looks to supplant a 29-year-old law and proposes to set up an administrative power which will have forces to review items and start class suit against defaulting organizations, including e-tailers. The key elements of the latest bill incorporate foundation of an executive agency ‘Central Consumer Protection Authority’ (CCPA) which will protect and enforce the rights of consumers. For quick disposal of court cases, the bill proposes “mediation” as an ADR mechanism. The intervention will be under the aegis of customer courts.

The latest amendment will required to upgrade the quality and security of products and services and has quite required procurement guaranteeing reasonable impartial and reliable results for consumers.

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Adv. Anitha Gutti