Explained: How the new Consumer Protection Act 2019 will benefit you

While the Consumer Protection Act,1986 has been amended a few times, but it lags behind times. There was a need for new provisions in the Act to address new-age cases, such as those arising in the domain of e-commerce.

The Consumer Protection (E-Commerce) Rules, 2020 will be applicable to all electronic retailers registered in India or abroad but offering goods and services to Indian consumers,  “Most rules framed under the Consumer Protection Act 2019 have come into force from yesterday. However, e-commerce rules will get notified by the end of this week, while rules on direct selling will take some more time,” the Consumer Affairs Minister told reporters in a virtual press conference.

With the exponential growth in internet and online infrastructure, it was no surprise that the e-commerce market in India experienced a similar boost. Increasing rates of internet penetration, along with an increasing share of the organized sector within retail markets created a strong foundation that e-commerce needs.

According to Statista, a German online portal for statistics, India, the South Asian country, had the fastest growing online retail market in 2019. The number of digital buyers across the country was estimated to be approximately 330 million in 2020.

While the Consumer Protection Act,1986 has been amended a few times, but it lags behind times. There was a need for new provisions in the Act to address new-age cases, such as those arising in the domain of e-commerce.

How The New Consumers Protection Act empowers customers:

Every e-commerce entity will have to provide the following information in a clear and accessible manner on its platform, displayed prominently to its users, namely:–

(a) the legal name of the e-commerce entity; 

(b) principal geographic address of its headquarters and all branches; 

(c) name and details of its website; and

(d) contact details like e-mail address, fax, landline and mobile numbers of customer care as well as of grievance officer. 

No e-commerce entity shall adopt any unfair trade practice, whether in the course of business on its platform or otherwise. In the new rules, Every e-commerce entity will have to establish an adequate grievance redressal mechanism having regard to the number of grievances ordinarily received by such entity from India and shall appoint a grievance officer for consumer grievance redressal.

The new act ensures that grievance officer acknowledges the receipt of any consumer complaint within forty-eight hours and redresses the complaint within one month from the date of receipt of the complaint. In the case of imported goods and services,  it shall mention the name and details of any importer from whom it has purchased such goods or services, or who may be a seller on its platform. The new act also stops e-commerce to impose cancellation charges on consumers cancelling after confirming purchase unless similar charges are also borne by the e-commerce entity.

A special feature of the new Consumer Act is the provisions to act against misleading advertisements, including a fine of up to Rs 10 lakh and a jail term extending to two years. The new Act permits a consumer to file a case from the place of his/her residence and has provisions that do not make it mandatory for a consumer to be represented by a lawyer. Failure to issue a bill for the sale of the product will also attract penalty, while also refusing to take back a defective product.

The new legislation also empowers the Central Consumers Protection Authority to have an investigation wing headed by a director-general to conduct a probe into consumer complaints. No inventory e-commerce entity shall falsely represent itself as a consumer and post reviews about goods and services or misrepresent the quality or the Features of any goods or services. Every inventory e-commerce entity shall ensure that the advertisements for marketing of goods or services are consistent with the actual characteristics, access and usage conditions of such goods or services.

Under the new rules, Every inventory e-commerce entity should provide accurate information related to return, refund, exchange, warranty and guarantee, delivery and shipment, cost of return shipping, mode of payments, grievance redressal mechanism, and any other similar information which may be required by consumers to make informed decisions.

The new law also, states that Any inventory e-commerce entity which explicitly or implicitly vouches for the authenticity of the goods or services sold by it, or guarantees that such goods or services are authentic, shall bear appropriate liability in any action related to the authenticity of such good or service.

Written by Kumar Saurav, He is Journalism graduate from Indian Institute of Mass Communication New Delhi.

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