The digital age has definitely paved the way for Consumer Protection Act 2019 repealing the superannuated 1986 act. By widening the definition of “Consumer “ as per Section 2(7) of the Consumer Protection Act ,experts say consumers are the kind in its literal sense. The definition of consumer has been now comprehensively defined by including any person who buys goods or avails service for a consideration that has been paid ,partly paid and partly promised or under a system of deferred payment .It is to be noted that any person who buys goods or avails service for a commercial purpose or for re-sale shall not be considered as a consumer. The definition has been inclusive with respect to its kind of transactions. It could be online or offline through teleshopping direct selling or multi-level marketing. Consumers are now at a position to file a complaint from where they reside or personally work for gain.
Section 10 to 27 of the Consumer Protection Act deals with CCPA Central Consumer Protection Authority which will guard, promote and enforce rights of consumers and regulated cases pertaining to unfair trade practices , misleading advertisements and violation of consumer rights. Section 15 of the Consumer Protection Act elaborates about Investigation Wing; (1) The Central Authority shall have an Investigation Wing headed by a Director-General for the purpose of conducting inquiry or investigation under this Act as may be directed by the Central Authority. (2) The Central Government may appoint a Director-General and such number of Additional Director-General, Director, Joint Director, Deputy Director and Assistant Director, from amongst persons who have experience in investigation and possess such qualifications, in such manner, as may be prescribed. (3) Every Additional Director-General, Director, Joint Director, Deputy Director and Assistant Director shall exercise his powers, and discharge his functions, subject to the general control, supervision and direction of the Director-General. (4) The Director-General may delegate all or any of his powers to the Additional Director-General or Director, Joint Director or Deputy Director or Assistant Director, as the case may be, while conducting inquiries or investigations under this Act. (5) The inquiries or the investigations made by the Director- General shall be submitted to the Central Authority in such form, in such manner and within such time, as may be specified by regulations.
Section 28 to 73 deals with Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission. There has been a significant change brought in this act pertaining to the pecuniary jurisdiction of each commission. While in 1986 the pecuniary jurisdiction of district commission was up to 5 lakhs Rupees, in 2002 it was enhanced to 20 Lakhs Rupees and now in 2019 the new amendment states up to 1 crore Rupees. The pecuniary jurisdiction of State Commission in 1986 was 5 to 20 Lakhs Rupees , in 2002 it was increased to 20 Lakhs Rupees to 1 Crore Rupees and in 2019 it is 1 Crore Rupees To 10 Crore Rupees .Whereas when it comes to National Commission in 1986 it was above 20 Lakhs Rupees, in 2002 above 1 Crore Rupees And In 2019 It Was Above 10 Crore Rupees.
E-filing of the complaint has made it even more feasible and convenient. The new act has enables hearing or examining parties through video conferencing .The limitation period to file an appeal to the State Commission has increased from thirty days to forty five days.
Section 74 to 81 of the Consumer Protection Act deals with Consumer Mediation Cell which helps the consumer to settle the dispute through mediations. A consumer mediation cell shall be attached to each District Commission and State Commission of that State. Section 79 deals with Procedure for mediation. (1) The mediation shall be held in the consumer mediation cell attached to the District Commission, the State Commission or the National Commission, as the case may be.(2) Where a consumer dispute is referred for mediation by the District Commission or the State Commission or the National Commission, as the case may be, the mediator nominated by such Commission shall have regard to the rights and obligations of the parties, the usages of trade, if any, the circumstances giving rise to the consumer dispute and such other relevant factors, as he may deem necessary and shall be guided by the principles of natural justice while carrying out mediation.(3) The mediator so nominated shall conduct mediation within such time and in such manner as may be specified by regulations.
Section 80 deals with Settlement through mediation.(1) Pursuant to mediation, if an agreement is reached between the parties with respect to all of the issues involved in the consumer dispute or with respect to only some of the issues, the terms of such agreement shall be reduced to writing accordingly, and signed by the parties to such dispute or their authorised representatives.(2) The mediator shall prepare a settlement report of the settlement and forward the signed agreement along with such report to the concerned Commission.(3) Where no agreement is reached between the parties within the specified time or the mediator is of the opinion that settlement is not possible, he shall prepare his report accordingly and submit the same to the concerned Commission. Section 81 of the Consumer Protection Act 2019 deals with Recording settlement and passing of order.(1) The District Commission or the State Commission or the National Commission, as the case may be, shall, within seven days of the receipt of the settlement report, pass suitable order recording such settlement of consumer dispute and dispose of the matter accordingly. (2) Where the consumer dispute is settled only in part, the District Commission or the State Commission or the National Commission, as the case may be, shall record settlement of the issues which have been so settled and continue to hear other issues involved in such consumer dispute. (3) Where the consumer dispute could not be settled by mediation, the District Commission or the State Commission or the National Commission, as the case may be, shall continue to hear all the issues involved in such consumer dispute.
Section 82 to 87 of the Act deals with Product Liability. Section 83 of the Act A product liability action may be brought by a complainant against a product manufacturer or a product service provider or a product seller, as the case may be, for any harm caused to him on account of a defective product. Section 87 of the Act deals with exceptions to product liability . A product liability action cannot be brought against the product seller if, at the time of harm, the product was misused, altered, or modified. In any product liability action based on the failure to provide adequate warnings or instructions, the product manufacturer shall not be liable, if the product was purchased by an employer for use at the workplace and the product manufacturer had provided warnings or instructions to such employer; the product was sold as a component or material to be used in another product and necessary warnings or instructions were given by the product manufacturer to the purchaser of such component or material, but the harm was caused to the complainant by use of the end product in which such component or material was used; the product was one which was legally meant to be used or dispensed only by or under the supervision of an expert or a class of experts and the product manufacturer had employed reasonable means to give the warnings or instructions for usage of such product to such expert or class of experts; or (the complainant, while using such product, was under the influence of alcohol or any prescription drug which had not been prescribed by a medical practitioner. A product manufacturer shall not be liable for failure to instruct or warn about a danger which is obvious or commonly known to the user or consumer of such product or which, such user or consumer, ought to have known, taking into account the characteristics of such product. Liability of product manufacturer , product service provider, product sellers has been dealt in section 84,section 85,section 86 respectively. Section 88 deals with Penalty for noncompliance of direction of Central Authority. Whoever, fails to comply with any direction of the Central Authority under sections 20 and 21, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months or with fine which may extend to twenty lakh rupees, or with both. Section 89 deals with Punishment for false or misleading advertisement- Any manufacturer or service provider who causes a false or misleading advertisement to be made which is prejudicial to the interest of consumers shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years and with fine which may extend to ten lakh rupees; and for every subsequent offence, be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years and with fine which may extend to fifty lakh rupees.
Section 92 deals with Cognizance of offence by court- No cognizance shall be taken by a competent court of any offence under sections 88 and 89 except on a complaint filed by the Central Authority or any officer authorised by it in this behalf.
The question whether the medical services shall be included in this act has been dealt in a very famous case Indian Medical Association v V.P Shantha and others 1996 AIR 550, 1995 SCC (6) 651.
A doctor cannot be held liable for negligence despite of reasonable treatment if there was no cure or no change in the state of health as held in the case Sunandabai Kisanji Dhole V Vinod Bele SCC NCDRC 126 on 22-06-2020.
To release dead body to an unrelated third person by a hospital is deficiency of service as held in Ernakulam Medical Centre v P.R Jayasree First Appeal No. 273 of 2017 decided on 12-03-2020.
In the case Manu Solanki v Vinayak Missions University 2020 SCC ONLINE NCDRC 7 on 20-01-2020, it was held that deficiency in coaching service does not fall within the ambit of Consumer forum jurisdictions.
Supermarket that charges cost for carrying bags with company logo is held to be “unfair trade practice” as held by District Consumer Dispute Redrressal Commission Hyderabad.
Supreme Court also stated that incorporating one-sided and unreasonable clause in apartment buyer’s agreement is to constituted as “unfair trade practice”.
Consumer Court in Kerala held a brand ambassador liable for advertising a product without ascertaining its effectiveness. The manufacturers and the actor was held to be liable and the brand ambassador was penalized for the false claims.
National Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission (NCDRC)stated its arbitrary to impose additional charge for carrying bags without any prior notice.
Consumer Protection Act 2019 has inculcated provisions to protect, safeguard the consumers in today’s digital age. From “Let the Buyer Beware” to “ Let the Seller Beware” there has been a significant change in the outlook towards how consumers are seen and how their rights must be protected.
Every patient is a consumer, and every consumer is a potential patient. What NantWorks is doing is building the world the way Da Vinci saw it, and augmenting every frame a human being sees as they work, live and play by Patrick Soon-Shiong.
1.Consumer Protection Act 2019 Gazette.
2. https://www.thehindu.com/business/Industry/consumer-law-kicks-in-regulator-on-the-anvil/article32154050.ece- Consumer protection law kicks in, regulator on the anvil -Mini Tejaswi.
3. SCC Blog -2020 Wrap Up –Flashback of Stories on Consumer Cases by Devika Sharma.
4. https://indianlawportal.co.in/indian-medical-association-v-vp-shantha/, by Diyaa Kuntal Desai, October 5 2020.