New Delhi: A Bill to establish a national level regulator - Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) - to deal with consumer complaints pro-actively was passed in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday by voice vote amid objections to several clauses.
Unveiling the government's argument for the passage of the Consumer Protection Bill, 2019, Union Food and Public Distribution Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said the new draft legislation was important to strengthen the consumer rights considering modern day challenges and assured that consumers' interests regarding e-commerce will be addressed.
Paswan said the Bill will clear the way for consumers to go to court if they were not satisfied.
The Bill, which seeks to replace the Consumer Protection Act 1986, has 109 clauses to establish CCPA as a national level regulator.
The Bill also has provisions to deal with class actions, product liability, misleading advertisements, liability for celebrity endorsements and others. It also addresses new age developments like e-commerce, direct selling and tele-marketing.
As per the Bill, the CCPA will deal with matters relating to violation of rights of consumers, unfair trade practice and false or misleading advertisements which are prejudicial to the interests of public and consumers.
According to the Minister, the CCPA will have an investigating wing headed by a Director General with powers to search and seize.
Several members from the treasury benches and in the opposition, including the Congress, CPI-M, AIMIM, TDP and NCP, expressed their concerns and raised objection on different clauses of the Bill.
Congress member Shashi Tharoor said the arbitration clause should not be allowed in consumer forum as it limits the forum's power to help consumer.
"Law should take precedence over limited liability clauses. The definition of services in the Bill excludes free services," he said.
Tharoor pointed out that government hospitals, for example, give free services but consumers were compensated for negligence.
BJP's Rajiv Pratap Rudy said that telephone companies disconnect phone connections if bills were not paid. But if phones disconnect on their own due to call drops, one cannot say he or she won't pay because the department would cut the connection.
"Similarly, if power is not provided within 24 hours, it is my prerogative to not pay, but that option is not available. We are not able to provide protection in areas where are monopolies," he said
One MP called Clause 62 :a mischievous clause". "Why should the national commission intervene on the state's right to investigate the matter?"
NCP's Supriya Sule asked who does one turn to for food adulteration. Without naming Maggi, she asked why was it was banned and why the ban was revoked later.
CPI-M's Abdul Majeed expressed asked: "If the Act can provide relief to those who bought imported spurious goods, what about the loss of valuables kept in bank lockers?"
Opposing the Bill, AIMIM President Asaduddin Owaisi said: "You have succumbed to the medical lobby."
TDP's Jaydev Galla said: "Not only paid services but also free services in government hospitals should be brought under this Bill."
He said the Bill was also silent on surrogate advertising like those for alcohol, cigarettes and paan masala.