This year the National Consumer Day is being observed at a crucial time when the Government is preparing to repeal the Consumer Protection Act 1986 and bring in a new Act with substantial changes that will holistically cover all aspects of consumer grievance redressal, streamline functioning of Consumer fora to meet future challenges for more effective consumer protection. The new bill has been passed by Lok Sabha on 20th December, 2018 and is now pending approval from Rajya Sabha.
Secretary, Department of Consumer Affairs, Shri Avinash K Srivastava, in his welcome address stated that new markets have brought new challenges for consumers who are now more aware of their rights due to constant efforts by Government campaign “Jago Grahak Jago” which has resulted in increased number of cases. Therefore, the theme timely disposal of consumer cases is most appropriate for celebration of National Consumer Day, 2018.
Shri Srivastava mentioned about the following four key initiatives taken by the department to reduce costs and ensure timely redressal of consumer grievances:
- Strengthening of National Consumer Helpline with new software and additional counselors and Zonal Helplines in 6 zones. for regional language services. 480 major Companies including several e-commerce platforms have been roped in as convergence partners leading to speedy resolution of cases.
- Strengthening of Consumer Fora with new infrastructure and CONFONET which is about computer networking of consumer fora.
- NCDRC on directions of Supreme Court issued new Regulations making admission or rejection of cases in 21 days and pronouncing judgment in 45 days after final hearing. Model Rules have alsobeen framed for States to recruit qualified persons for District fora and State Commissions.
- The new Consumer Protection Bill, 2018 through Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) and alternate dispute resolution mechanism through mediation and simplification of adjudication procedures will result in quick disposal of consumer cases.
Former Law Secretary, Shri Suresh Chandra delivering his theme address stated that Consumer Protection has a long history dating back to ancient India. He said that CP Act is unique in that it is the only Act that is compensatory with redressal agencies at three levels. With internet and smart phones penetration and 24 hours shopping facility, he said e-commerce is poised to grow exponentially in India.
President, NCDRC Justice R. K. Agrawal asserted that performance of a judicial system and development of a nation go hand-in-hand. He said that in the new Consumer Protection Bill, 2018 there are so many provisions empowering consumer commissions as well as administration to ensure justice can reach the door of the consumer in time. He also stated that Hon’ble Supreme Court has laid right to speedy justice as a fundamental right of a citizen, implicit in the article 21 of the Constitution of India.
Delivering his presidential address, the Minister of State for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution and Commerce & Industry, Shri C. R. Chaudhary congratulated all Indians on the occasion of National Consumer Day and said the whole economy revolves around consumer. Shri Chaudhary asserted that we are trying to make consumers smart but the process will take time in a country as vast as India. Meanwhile, we need to prevent consumers’ detriment and exploitation. The Minister of State thanked Lok Sabha MPs for passing the Consumer Protection Bill, 2018 on 20th December which contains numerous provisions to reduce the cost of litigation and make it less time consuming.
Shri Chaudhary stated that as has been often said by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi that Consumer is King, the Ministry is also trying to create an enabling environment for consumers to get the right goods and services at the right time and right place. He said that quick disposal of cases is essential as justice delayed is justice denied and for this purpose quasi-judicial system is being strengthened and streamlined. He also mentioned about deemed admissibility of complaints, mediation, and expansion of various definitions of unfair trade practices. Shri Chaudhary also said that model rules will enable state governments to adopt uniform recruitment rules, qualifications, selection procedure and salaries so as to get better qualified people for managing the consumer fora.