Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Consumer protection act

The CPA,1986 was enacted considering the large number of consumers in India who are illiterate and are susceptible to exploitation by unscrupulous businesses. Hence, a major objective of this Act was to make consumers aware of the various quality-control measures(e.g. Hallmark, BIS-mark etc.) being employed for the products and the rights available to them to seek redressal against unfair practices.
Although, the impacts have been largely positive as is visible in the increased consumer awareness and adherence of businesses to the quality-control standards, there have been certain issues as well. The movement has left many rural regions untouched. Also, the slow progress of addressing the cases has resulted in large-scale pendency. Provisions for addressing new-age cases such as e-commerce are also non-existent.
The recent amendments proposed to the CPA, 1986 are largely progressive in the sense that it seeks to decrease the time required to seek redressal by including provisions for online filling of complaints and setting a time limit of 21 days for scrutiny of cases before admission, effectively leveraging the District Forums by increasing their pecuniary jurisdiction from Rs.20 to Rs.50 lakh, and increasing the penalties to 10 times the cost of goods provided.
However, certain issues such as the appointment of mediators to settle disputes are contentious as this would lead to arm-twisting of the weaker parties and may encourage corruption. Also, the setting up of a Consumer Authority and absence of provisions to streamline the conducting of cases in courts may only lead to greater regulations and complexities. Addressing these issues is necessary to ensure that the new amendments bring about definitive improvements in the CPA.

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