Is the protection of consumers the need for an hour? Are frauds and misleading of the customers as deceitful as other crimes in the society? Will the 2019 act turn out to be beneficial to the consumers as in comparison to the repealed act?
Bharti Airtel Ltd. v. Rohit Sharma – This is a case which was decided before the 1986 was repealed. In this case, an appeal filed against the decision of the District Forum by Bharti Airtel Ltd. was dismissed and was directed to pay punitive compensation to the Respondent. In this case, a complaint was filed by the complainant when once while downloading a file of 4 to 5 MB a sum of Rs. 200 was deducted from his account. When he approached the Respondent, he returned him (complainant) a sum of Rs. 148. So in this case the complainant filed a case before the District Forum to help him get the refund of the remaining Rs.52 that the company deducted.
So, in this case, the Forum ordered Bharti Airtel Ltd. to refund back the remaining sum of Rs. 52 to the complainant along with 9% interest plus litigation charges and punitive compensation of Rs. 2000. Aggrieved by the decision of the District Forum Bharti Airtel Ltd. approached the State Commission. Where the State Commission dismissed the appeal and ordered Bharti Airtel Ltd. and the order of the District Forum was considered binding.
Also, the Commission held that the Opposite Party had received the amount of consideration and also falls under the definition of consumer under section 2(d) of the 1986 act.
This act brings about some major highlights:
- The District Forum has been renamed as the District Commission.
- Earlier any appeal to be made against a decision of a District Forum required the opposite party to deposit a maximum sum of R. 25,000 which has now been detached. The present act makes it to 50% of the amount ordered by the District Commission.
- The meaning of consumers under this act has now been widened. Consumer is said to include within its scope any person who buys any goods either through an online mode or offline or by way of any e-commerce.
- Strict penalties can be imposed on suppliers who attempt to mislead the consumers by way of fake advertisements.
- Also, this act has enabled consumers to save time and money by enabling them to seek hearing through video-conferencing. Not only does its emphasis on hearing through online mode but also on the filing of the case electronically by the consumer.
- As any personal information given by a consumer is to be kept confidential by the seller and has thereby widened the scope of the term “Unfair Trade Practices”. Any information is said not to be in violation of the Unfair Trade Practices only when the disclosure has been made in accordance with the provisions under any other law.
- A separate regulator called the CCPA (Central Consumer Protection Authority) had been set up, where this act gives CCPA the right to impose a penalty on the manufacturer for false advertisements up to Rs. 10 lakhs and it also has the right to sentence imprisonment up to 2 years if it thinks fit. Further, if the offense is a subsequent offense, the fine can be extended to Rs. 50 lakhs and imprisonment up to a period of 5 years.
- Further, the CCPA has also has the right of prohibiting the endorser from endorsing any misleading advertisements for a period of 1 year and whereas the offense becomes a subsequent offense, then the prohibition period can be extended to 3 years.
- Also, as per the Consumer Dispute Redressal Committee Rules, there need not be any fees for filing of cases up to Rs. 5 lakhs.
- Further, the State Commissions have to furnish reports to the Central Government furnishing details on vacancies, disposal, the pendency of cases, and other matters on a quarterly basis.
What are the major changes this act has fetched?
Earlier the complaint in the Consumer Court could only be filed against the “seller” or “defendant” at the place where his (sellers) office is located whereas in contrary the 2019 act has permitted the consumer to file a complaint from the place where he resides or works.
This act has enabled the introduction of a separate regulator – Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA). Having no provision of product liability, the 2019 act had widened its scope by allowing the consumers to seek compensation for any harm caused by product or services. The term “product liability” includes product manufacturer, product service provider and product seller within its scope. Further, settlement can now be sought through between the consumer and the defendant by way of mediation under this act.
Having a pecuniary jurisdiction up to Rs. 20 lakhs at District Level, Rs. 20 lakhs to Rs. 1 crore at the State Level and above 1 crore at the National Level, the 2019 act has brought up the pecuniary jurisdiction up to Rs. 1 crore, Rs. 1 crore to 10 crore and Rs. 10 crores and above respectively at each level.
Also, the act has extended its arms by marking a provision related to the e-commerce under its scope. In other words, all the rules related to direct selling has been extended to e-commerce.
Thereby, the basic aim of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 is positioned to protect the consumers from any frauds and provide them with a steady disposal of the dispute either by regular proceedings or by way of settlement. As quoted by well-known freedom fighter and Indian Lawyer Mr. Mahatma Gandhi Ji:
“Customers are the most important visitor on our premises, they are not dependent on us, we are dependent on them. They are not an interruption in our work. They are the purpose of it. They are not outsiders in our business. They are part of it; we are not doing them a favour by serving them. They are doing us a favour by giving us an opportunity to do so”.
 Bharti Airtel Ltd.& Ors. Vs. Sh. Rohit Sharma, A.I.R. 2019 H.P. State Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission, Shimla
Blogs Compensation Constitution Consumer Forum Consumer Protection Consumer Protection Act coronavirus Coronavirus Pandemic CPA global pandemic Indian Constitution Indian government Indian Law Law legal pandemic