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  • Anushree Jha

"Understanding the Role of Consumer Protection Redressal Agencies"

Anushree Jha,

University of Mumbai

Consumer Protection Redressal Agencies

Introduction:-

Resources are things or substances that are consumed by humans to satisfy their needs and wants. Such resources are consumed to sustain human survival. It is known as the act of consumption[1]. Consumption establishes the living standards and quality of life in civilisation. Humans can consume any goods and services deemed fit and proper for their everyday lives. They are known as consumers. Consumers can either have the utility of goods and services either by purchasing them or acquiring them free of cost. Goods and services are offered in markets where producers manufacture or sell them to consumers. Such producers depend upon the perspective of consumers towards their goods and services as they generate returns to producers. Moreover, it facilitates the growth of the economy.

However, some producers engage in unethical means of trade practices that cause exploitation of the consumers and disrupt the economy. Therefore, certain laws are enacted to prevent such misfortunes. These laws are known as consumer protection laws that protect the interests of consumers and penalise the wrongdoers who exploit consumers through malpractices[2]. Consumer laws have specific rights and duties to protect and enlighten consumers and have its justice system in the form of redressal agencies to confer justice and interpret laws. This comprehensive research article undertakes a critical examination of the Consumer Protection Redressal Agencies that are currently operating in India, delving into their functioning, including their procedures and further amendments in the law to understand it in more detail.

Consumer Redressal System in India:-

In the Republic of India, the Consumer Protection Act of 1986, and its amendment in 2019 are primary enactments concerning the field of Indian consumer law. It entails several provisions including redressal agencies that assist consumers in seeking appropriate remedies. It is a three-tier quasi-judicial system established at national, state, and district levels. Their functioning can be explained by distinguishing their characteristics[3]:-

1. National Commission:- The official name of the national commission is the ‘National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission’ (NCDRC). It is a consumer court established at the national level. Under the 2019 Act, Sections 53 to 70 state the essential provisions of the National Commission. Established by the Central Government of India under Section 53 of the Act, its jurisdiction is stated under Section 34, that the geographical jurisdiction will be up to the local limits of the country and pecuniary jurisdiction will be for amounts exceeding ten crore rupees. There is only one National Commission for the whole country in the national capital with its branches in different cities across the nation.

The National Commission shall have four members with a President, including at least one female member. Appeals can be brought against any judgment of the State Commission. The Provision of Appeal states that appeals can be made under Section 68 to the Supreme Court against any judgment passed by the National Commission. The President of the Commission shall be any person who has been or is competent to be a Supreme Court judge. The term of a member of the Commission is up to five years with the age of less than 70 years. The National Commission is an autonomous statutory body under the Act prescribed under Section 70.

2. State Commission:- The official name of the state commission is the ‘State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission’ (SCDRC). It is a consumer court established at the state level. Under the 2019 Act, Sections 42 to 52 state the essential provisions of the State Commission. Established by the State Governments of India under Section 42, Its jurisdiction is stated under Section 47, that the geographical jurisdiction will be up to the local limits of the state and pecuniary jurisdiction will be for amounts which exceed one crore rupees but are less than ten crore rupees. There can only be one State Commission in a state, in the state capital with its branches in different cities across the state.

The State Commission shall have two members with a President, including at least one female member. Appeals can be brought before the commission against any judgment of the District Commission. The Provision of Appeal states that appeals can be made under Section 51 to the National Commission against any judgment passed by the State Commission. The President of the Commission shall be any person who has been or is competent to be a High Court’s judge. The term of a member of the Commission is up to five years with the age of less than 67 years. The State Commission is administered by the National Commission prescribed under Section 70.

3. District Commission:- The official name of the district commission is the ‘District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission’ (DCDRC). It is a consumer court established at the district level. Under the 2019 Act, Sections 28 to 41 state the essential provisions of the District Commission. Established by the State Governments of India under Section 28, its jurisdiction is stated under Section 34, that the geographical jurisdiction will be up to the local limits of the district and pecuniary jurisdiction will be for amounts up to one crore rupees. There can be more than one District Commission for the whole district in the district headquarters with its branches in different areas across the district.

The District Commission shall have two members with a President, including at least one female member. Complaints can be made regarding goods and services within the jurisdiction of the district. The Provision of Appeal states that appeals can be made under Section 41 to the State Commission against any judgment passed by the District Commission. The President of the Commission shall be any person who has been or is competent to be a District Court’s judge. The term of a member of the Commission is up to five years with the age of less than 65 years. The District Commission is administered by the State Commission prescribed under Section 70.

Working of Consumer Protection Laws:-

The Consumer Protection Act, 2019, is currently in force in India. It prescribes the provisions of the consumer redressal system. However, there is a specific set of procedures that are required to comply with the consumers who want to seek remedies. It also states the method of filing a complaint in written form. The reasons for the complaint are as follows[4]:-

1. Traders or sellers opting for unfair or restrictive trade practices.

2. Defects identified on any goods purchased.

3. Deficiency sensed in any services availed.

4. Excess of the price being charged unreasonably by the seller.

5. Hazardous or harmful goods and services being offered by the seller will pose a great risk to the health.

Consumer complaints must be filed in the nearest Commission, depending upon the geographical and pecuniary jurisdiction by paying legal fees. The filing must occur within the span of two years after the event of loss or injury. The complaint will be rejected or accepted within 21 days of filing in the District Commission and if accepted, the copy of the complaint will be delivered to the respondent within 45 days[5]. The targeted duration of the proceedings is around 3 months and if the complainant fails to appear before the Commission, then the Commission may at its will dismiss the complaint. Remedies granted by the Commission include the Elimination of Defects in Goods and Services, the Substitution of Goods, Refund of the Paid Price, Award of Compensation for the Loss or Injury, Eradication of Harmful Goods and an award for Sufficient Costs.

Amendments in the Consumer Protection Act:- There were several minor amendments to the Consumer Protection Act. However, the 2019 enactment replaced the original 1986 enactment. New features and provisions were added which is suited for today’s circumstances. It came into effect on the 20th of July 2020. It has founded consumer councils and a central authority to investigate and inquire into the matters of consumer affairs. It aims to curb a large amount of pendency in redressal commissions across the country and promote transparency. As mentioned above in the table, the pecuniary jurisdiction of the complaints has been altered at all three levels. Some of the additional features are as follows:-

· Electronic Usage: Consumers can file their complaints electronically through E-filing and proceedings and submission of evidence can be fulfilled through video conferencing at the residence of the consumer.

· Unfair Trade Practices: The Act redefines unfair trade practices and recognises the value of the privacy of the consumer in disclosures.

· Alteration in Procedure of Appeals: It is required to be paid 50% of the amount ordered by the District Commission by the Opposing Party while appealing to the State Commission.

· E-commerce Transactions: They are included under the part of Direct Sales.

· Alternative Dispute Resolution: The aspect of mediation has been added to settle disputes amicably.

· Huge Penalties: The CCPA can penalise the producer by up to ten lakh rupees and imprisonment for two years on the charge of false advertising. Likewise, it can penalise up to fifty lakh rupees and imprisonment for five years to repeat offenders.

Conclusion:- Resources are things or substances that are consumed by humans to satisfy their needs and wants. The act of using such resources is known as consumption and establishes the living standards and quality of life. Consumer protection laws protect the interests of consumers and penalise the wrongdoers. In the Republic of India, the Consumer Protection Act of 1986, and its amendment in 2019 are primary enactments concerning the field of Indian consumer law. Consumer protection redressal agencies in India are a three-tier quasi-judicial system established at national, state, and district levels. There is a specific set of procedures that are required to comply with the consumers who want to seek remedies. Consumer complaints must be filed in the nearest Commission, depending upon the geographical and pecuniary jurisdiction by paying legal fees. The Consumer Protection Act, 2019 is the primary enactment in India repealed from the 1986 Act. It aims to curb a large amount of pendency in redressal commissions across the country and promote transparency.

References:-

[1] G.O.T. Collective, What are Resources?, (June 12, 2014), Pressbooks, https://opentextbc.ca/geography/chapter/what-are-resources/.

[2] Consumer Protection Act, 2019 (Act No. 35 of 2019)

[3] BYJUS, Consumer Protection Act, 2019 - Salient Features & Summary, (Feb. 20, 2024), https://byjus.com/free-ias-prep/consumer-protection-act-2019/.

[4] The Consumer Protection Act, 1986, § 2(1) (n.d.)," Indian Kanoon, https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1516524/.

[5] Legal Developments, Consumer Forums: Power to Extend Time Beyond 45 Days for Written Filing by the Opposite Party? – Legal Developments, (n.d.), The Legal 500, https://www.legal500.com/developments/thought-leadership/consumer-forums-power-to-extend-time-beyond-45-days-for-written-filing-by-the-opposite-party/.

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