Consumer Protection Council, Rourkela
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     There is a proposal to amend the Consumer Protection Act.  Department of Consumer Affairs, Govt. of India, has sought comments / suggestions on these amendments from the consumer groups as well as the general public, through its website   

     After having studied the Consumer Protection Amendment Act, 2014, we have found that the proposed amendments, in the present form, could cause irreparable damage to the consumer movement of this country; which is already tottering.  

     Our comments / suggestions which were sent to the Department of Consumer Affairs have been reproduced below.
                                                                                                                                        - Editor

(Comments of Consumer Protection Council, Rourkela)

    The Consumer Protection (Amendment) Act, 2014, as made available in the website of Department of Consumer Affairs, Government of India were studied and our views / suggestions are given below:


      88 pages of comparative statement indicating the existing provisions and the amendments proposed have been gone through.  Instead of including the comments sub-section-wise, which in any case is not feasible in a “pdf” document, our comments have been placed in the following pages, in relation to the proposed amendments.

Chapter I (Preliminary)

     Since the incorporation of amendments in these sections are primarily based on the proposed amendments in the following Chapters, the changes that will become necessary will be limited to the suggested amendments as submitted herein; while the major amendments appear to be inessential, devoid of any value addition to the consumer population and rather would result as a drain on the scarce resources of the state.

Chapter II   Consumer Protection Councils

      Consumer Protection Act, 1986 was enacted with the following major objectives:

1. To safeguard the six consumer rights as envisaged in the Act, by:

(a) The mechanism of consultations through the Central and the State Councils consisting of different interest groups such as representatives of consumer organizations, the government – State and Centre, trade and industry, consumer fora, especially, the National Commission and others.

(b) Time bound resolution of consumer disputes through the three tier quasi-judicial machinery constituted under the Act, with least expense to the consumer litigant.

     This basic structure is well thought out and should not be disturbed through the amendments.  The essence of democracy is participation of the people in the consultative process. 

     The proposed amendments by contemplating to eliminate the Central and State Councils is a cynical ploy to eliminate the consumer groups from the consultation and in a way rises serious questions about their relevance and role in safeguarding the consumers.  So the proposal to convert the Consumer Protection Councils as existing under section-4 to Consumer Protection Authority is ill conceived and should be dropped, to save whatever little consumer movement is prevalent at present.

2. When the government is in dearth of resources, installing of a Consumer Protection Authority which is appearing to be an excuse to employ ex-bureaucrats and others, with the expenditure coming from the consolidated fund of India will only be a drain on the Tax Payers money without any tangible results coming around.  Further, such bureaucrats as proposed will be provided with an opportunity to go on foreign trips to participate in international conferences, in the garb of cooperating and working with consumer protection agencies in foreign countries.

    Thus, all the proposed amendments from sec.-4, sec.-5, sec.-6, sec.7, sec.-8, sec.-8A and sec.-8B and introduction of sec.-9, sec.-10, sec.-11, sec.-12 and sec.-13, warrant to be discarded. 

     As a matter of fact, the District Collector / District Magistrate, are being envisaged to take additional responsibility to deal with the consumer issues which come under the purview of the proposed Central Authority.  This proposal, on the basis of which the Central Consumer Protection Authority has been envisaged, is practically non-workable at the grass-root level.  The absurdity is all the more obvious when one considers that at the state level and central level, fully paid officials are expected to discharge the functions of the Central Authority, while at the district level, where the problems are supposed to emanate and be addressed, an already over burdened District Collector is supposed to do it as a part of his routine.

Chapter III  Consumer Disputes Redressal Agencies

Proposal to rename Commissions as Forums – sec. 9(b), 9(c) and 9(d):

      The rationale behind naming of the State Commissions and the National Commission as the State Forums and the National Forum is not clear, while at the same time the proposed amendments suggest that all the Forums should be collectively known as Commission.  No value addition and a source of confusion and hence should be dropped.

Proposal to provide for common Forums for multiple districts, etc. (Provision under sec. 9):

      As it is, the State Governments have been found to be lacking the interest or commitment in establishing the District Forum in each district and in manning them properly.  Any concession to club the Forums of different districts as proposed will cause more hardship to the consumer litigants and will be detrimental to their wellbeing.    As such, the proposed amendment should be dropped.

      Rather, the efficacy of these bodies to provide faster justice with least harassment should be aimed at.  So, a provision can be introduced to make the State Government liable to compensate the victims for the delays necessitated due to non-functioning of such District Forums / State Commission.

Proposal to prevent members of political parties from Forum appointments – sec. 10(1)(b)(ee), 16(1)(b)(ee) and 20(1)(b)(ee):

      Amendments to prevent members of political parties from being appointed as Members of the District Forums, State Commission and National Commission are welcome.

Proposal to change the manner of appointment to District Forums – sec. 10(1A):

      The proposal to appoint the President and Members of District Forums through the State Public Service Commission appears to be inherently cumbersome and unworkable, especially for specialized short service requirements.  Instead, a sitting or retired judge of the High Court, as nominated by the Chief Justice of the high Court would be better placed to head the Selection Committee.

Proposal for enhancement of compensation of the presiding members – sec. 10(3), 16(2) and 20(2):

      Amendments for standardization and enhancement of remuneration of the Presiding Members of the District Forums, State Commissions and the National Commission are welcome.  This will also attract capable individuals to man these bodies.

Proposal to exclude the value of compensation from the pecuniary jurisdiction of the Forum / Commission – sec. (11):

      Since a fee is already being collected based on the value of the complaint and since logically the compensation claimed along with the value of the goods or services needs to account for the total value of the complaint dictating whether the said complaint will fall under which one of the three-tier quasi-judicial machinery, excluding the value of compensation claimed from the value of the litigation / pecuniary jurisdiction of the District Forum / State Commission is not rational.  Further, the billed value of goods or services utilized by any authorized person, say, as in the case of public utilities like lifts / escalators / elevators, resulting in serious injury, will not be able to obtain the billed value of the good / service, putting the consumer litigant to avoidable harassment.  After all, the Forum / Commission has powers to dismiss frivolous complaints.  Thus, the billed value of the goods or services alone should not be the basis to determine the pecuniary jurisdiction of the District Forum and hence this proposal needs to be dropped.

Proposal to allow the consumer to file a case in the Forum / State Commission, within whose jurisdiction he resides – sec. 11(2)(d) and 17(2)(d):

      Allowing a complainant to file a consumer dispute case in any Forum / Commission in whose jurisdiction he / she is residing or personally works for gain, though could appear to be favouring the consumer, is ill-conceived, irrational and appear to be illegal as to place the seller of goods / service provider in an unreasonably disadvantageous position vis-à-vis the consumer who avails the good / service.  Further, there is a distinct possibility of outstation shoppers taking the shopkeeper / service provider to ransom.  Hence, should be dropped.

Proposal to decide the case on merits based on available records – sec. 13(2)(c):

      Amendment to Sec. 13(2)(c), requiring the Forum to decide the case on merits based on available records, instead of dismissing it when the consumer fails to appear before it, is welcome.

Proposal to restrict the appearance of advocates – sec. 13(8), sec. 18(2) and sec. 22(3):

     Introduction of restrictions on the appearance of advocates are welcome.

Proposal to promote mediation through introduction of Sec. 13(A):

      Introduction of sec. 13(A) to promote mediation is likely to frustrate the ends of justice and harass the consumer litigant on account of further delays and injustice.  Hence, the proposed amendment as a part of the consumer justice system under the Consumer Protection Act needs to be dropped.  Instead, the Consumer Affairs Department, if funds are available for the purpose, can establish these Mediation Centres, through the existing Voluntary Consumer Organisations or other means.  Hence, the proposed amendments and Chapter-IV need to be dropped.

Proposal to introduce quantification of punitive damages – sec. 14(1)(d):

      Quantification of punitive damages, under Sec. 14(1)(d) is welcome.

Proposal for enhancing penalty under Sec. 14(1)(hb):

      The proposal to enhance the penalty under Sec. 14(1)(hb), when the goods or services affect a large number of consumers, appears more of an hype.  This is so because, the consumer courts as well as the Supreme Court are shying away from awarding any penalty even when tailor made cases are brought before them. (Example: Original Petition No. 224 of 2001, in the NCDRC, Consumer Protection Council, Rourkela Vs Indian Oil Corporation and Others; Civil Appeal No. 10126 of 2010, in the Supreme Court, Consumer Protection Council, Rourkela Vs Indian Oil Corporation Ltd. and Others.)  In this country seeking money by NGOs are still considered blasphemous – a sin – height of hypocrisy.  Further, why the entire penalty should be diverted to the Consumer Welfare Fund (as per the CP Rules)?  If the government and the Department of Consumer Affairs are serious about eliminating the Unfair Trade Practices, to encourage such initiatives, some percentage of the penalty should be awarded to the VCO fighting the case.

Proposal to delimit the number of members with judicial background – sec. 16(1)(b)(iii):

      Proposed amendment to delete the provision after 16(1)(b)(iii), which limits the members with judicial background to fifty per cent (50%), could pave the way for eliminating the non-judicial members from the State Commissions.  This is against the structure of the quasi-judicial consumer courts, making these Commissions vulnerable to become an extended arm of the Civil Courts; which should be avoided.  This proposed amendment which can change the complexion of the Commissions (quasi-judicial body) should be dropped.

Proposal to make a sitting judge of the High Court to head the Selection Committee – sec. 16(1A):

      Providing for a sitting judge of the High Court to head the Selection Committee in place of the President of the State Commission, to appoint the Members of the State Commission is welcome as this will bring in more objectivity in the appointments, rather than serving the political interests of the Party in power.

Proposal to restrict Appeal to single stage – sec. 19:

      Amendment to Sec. 19, to restrict the appeal to single stage will seriously jeopardize dispensation of justice.  Such restrictions can materially affect consumer justice and is ill-conceived; should be dropped.  Further, when the orders of the State Commission can be appealed against, even as per the present amendments, how a distinction can be made between a case arising from the District Forum and those arising under the original jurisdiction of the State Commission itself, when both are decided by the same bench?  The proposed amendment is irrational and without any logic.

    As already stated above, Chapter-IV needs to be dropped and there will be no change in numbering of the Miscellaneous Chapter.

     Since Consumer Protection Rules are to be amended as per the amended Consumer Protection Act, by the concerned Ministry, it is not being commented upon. 

Concluding Remarks:

     Consumer Protection Act, as already existing, is one of the progressive piece of legislations to have been enacted for the better protection of the consumers.  Unfortunately, the spirit of the Act has been missing in its implementation.  The present government and the department will do well to bridge this gap, even if it is unable to bring in further amendments to the CP Act.


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