Consumers can now register complaints on dedicated portal
To enhance consumer awareness and strengthen support services to consumers in the country, the ministry of consumer affairs, food and public distribution has launched two initiatives of the department of consumer affairs: a dedicated portal to register Grievances against Misleading Advertisements (GAMA) and Grahak Suvidha Kendras. The portal covers the key sectors of food, agriculture, health, education, real estate, transport and financial services. The Grahak Suvidha Kendras are meant to be one-stop consumer centres and are currently located at Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Jaipur, Kolkata, Patna and Delhi.
Launching the initiatives in New Delhi, Union Minister for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution Ram Vilas Paswan assured that consumers could register their complaints on the portal without any hassles. Paswan said his ministry had issued directions to all state governments to ensure proper functioning of consumer protection forums in all the districts and provide adequate infrastructure facilities. “The ministry has decided to release Rs 1 crore to each District Consumer Forum,” he said. He also suggested that a consumer advocacy strategy be adopted uniformly across sectors and geographies and this must include: consumer empowerment through awareness programmes; enhancing the quality of information provided for products and services; and standardizing contracts to ensure that they are not unfair to the consumer.
Consumer Affairs Secretary Keshave Desiraju said that comprehensive amendments to the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) as well as Bureau of Indian Standards Act had been finalised to ensure quality and safety of goods and services as well as prevention of unfair trade practices, and to provide for speedy and affordable consumer grievance redress.
The GAMA portal can be accessed here: http://gama.gov.in/
ASCI introduces consumer complaint mobile app
In order to make it convenient for consumers to complain against misleading advertisements, Advertising Standard Council of India (ASCI) has launched the country’s first consumer complaint mobile app. Called ASCIonline, the app will provide consumer complaint services on a mobile and is currently available on Android and iOS. Using the app, a consumer can lodge complaints by simply providing advertisement details and the objection. Users can also attach files – an image or a video – or give the YouTube link of that advertisement. One can also check the history of all previously registered complaints with the latest action status. The complainant can opt for ‘push notification’ whereby one can get a real-time update on the status of the complaint.
Maggi update: Government to sue Nestle on behalf of consumers
The consumer affairs ministry is preparing a case against Nestle on the Maggi issue and it will file the same in the national consumer forum. Sources said the ministry would file a petition on behalf of consumers, seeking damages from the multinational for selling an unsafe product, adopting unfair trade practices and running misleading advertisements.
Consumer affairs minister Ram Vilas Paswan held a meeting with top officials to discuss the petition. As per Section 12 (d) of Consumer Protection Act, 1986, the central or state government can file a complaint in the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission in its individual capacity or as a representative of interests of consumers in general. However, no case has ever been filed under this section and if the ministry does go ahead, this will be a first.
The Act also has a provision – Section 14 (hb) – under which the forum can direct the opposite party ‘to pay a sum as may be determined by it, if it is of the opinion that loss or injury has been suffered by a large number of consumers who are not identifiable conveniently.’ It also says that the minimum amount payable shall not be less than five per cent of the value of defective goods sold to such consumers. As per Section 10 (a) of Consumer Protection Rules, the amount shall be credited to the Consumer Welfare Fund. The fund can be used for welfare of consumers and even for reimbursing legal expenses incurred by a complainant, or class of complaints in a consumer dispute.