CONSUMERS’ RIGHT PROTECTION
The Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution under the leadership of Union Minister Ramvilas Paswan has created several milestones in the direction of protecting the interests of consumers. The Ministry of Consumer Affairs launched several awareness campaigns to empower consumers about their rights through Jago Grahak Jago initiative that helped in revolutionising the consumer movement in the country.
The Jago Grahak Jago campaign was launched extensively by the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) and is still running and has been a marquee consumer awareness campaign.
Since its inception in 1997, the department has come a long way and has benefited consumers in several ways. The Department has been taking many steps to promote and protect consumer rights, as provided under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.
A new Consumer Protection Bill, 2018 has been introduced in the Lok Sabha on January 5, 2018. In the new Bill, the rights of consumers are proposed to be protected with more stringent rules and regulations.
The salient features of the bill include establishment of an executive agency to be known as the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) to promote, protect and enforce the rights of the consumers and will be empowered to investigate, recall, refund and impose penalties; provision for product liability action in cases of personal injury, death, or property damage caused by or resulting from any product; provision for mediation as an alternate dispute resolution (ADR) making the process of dispute adjudication simpler and quicker and simplification of the process of adjudication by the consumer forums.
Another major step that has been taken in the interest of consumers is the collaboration between Ministry of Consumer Affairs and Google India to launch a nationwide ‘Digitally Safe Consumer’ campaign. The drive is aimed at raising awareness about online safety.
To keep consumers safe from misleading advertisements, the department has launched a portal Grievance Against Misleading Advertisements (GAMA) to handle complaints relating to misleading advertisement. As many as 6,230 complaints received through GAMA portal during the period April, 2015 to
January, 2018. Out of the total complaints of misleading advertisements, 1,262 complaints have been rejected, while 3,146 complaints have been resolved and 1,148 complaints have been referred to the regulators concerned for taking further action.
The major achievements of the Ministry during the year 2017 include strengthening of Price Monitoring Cell (PMC), utilisation of Price Stabilization Fund (PSF) to maintain buffer stock, protecting the interests of consumers after implementation of Goods & Services Tax (GST) by extending the benefits of price revision to consumers.
Paswan further said that due to Depot Online programme, there has been an increase in work capacity and loss of stolen and grain losses on depot levels of the Food Corporation of India.
Speaking about the Department of Consumer Affairs, Paswan said that the biggest achievement of the government is that the prices of essential items have been controlled. “The government had promised the people to control inflation, which has been done by this government in the last three years. The government has so far available buffer stock of pulses, which is now being distributed among various state government and central government programmes,” he said.
ACHIEVEMENTS OF THE DEPARTMENT OF CONSUMER AFFAIRS IN 2017
The government has approved creation of a buffer stock of up to 20 lakhs tonnes of pulses under Price Stabilization Fund (PSF) scheme. A total 12.54 lakh MT of pulses are available in the buffer after disposal of 7.96 lakh MT from 20.50 lakh tonnes, of which 3.79 lakh tonnes was imported and 16.71 lakh tonnes was procured domestically.
Of 16.71 lakh tonnes procured domestically, 15.52 lakh tonnes was procured from KMS 2016-17 and RMS 2017-18 benefiting around 849,128 farmers. As the sudden rise in prices of onions has always drew the attention of the Department, the government promoted procurement and import of onions through NAFED, SFAC and MMTC for stabilizing prices.
Pulses from the buffer are being utilised for supply to states for distribution through their schemes – Ministries/ Departments of Central Government having schemes with a nutrition component as well as those providing hospitality services either directly or through private agencies. In addition, pulses are also being disposed through auction in market. These interventions, inter-alia, has ensured that prices of pulses remain at reasonable level during the year. Strengthening of Price Monitoring Cell The Price Monitoring Cell is being strengthened at state level also by way of grants released to the State Government. Prices are stabilised by making appropriate policy recommendation and market intervention.
Amendment made in the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011 to safeguard the interest of consumers and ease of doing business. Goods displayed by the seller on e-commerce platform shall contain declarations required under the Rules.
Specific mention is made in the rules that no person shall declare different MRPS (dual MRP) on an identical pre-packaged commodity. Size of letters and numerals for making declaration is increased, so that consumer can easily read the same. The net quantity checking is made more scientific.
Bar Code/ QR Coding is allowed on voluntarily basis. Provisions regarding declarations on Food Products have been harmonized with regulation under the Food Safety & Standards Act. Medical devices which are declared as drugs, are brought into the purview of declarations to be made under the rules.
POST GST IMPLEMENTATION:
On account of implementation of GST w.e.f. July 1, 2017, there may be instances where the retail sale price of a pre-packaged commodity is required to be changed. In this context, Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution Union Minister Ramvila Paswan, had allowed the manufacturers or packers or importers of pre-packaged commodities to declare the revised retail sale price (MRP) in addition to the existing retail sale price (MRP), for three months w.e.f. July 1, 2017 to September 30, 2017.
Declaration of the changed retail sale price (MRP) was allowed to be made by way of stamping or putting sticker or online printing, as the case may be, after taking into account the input tax credit. Use of unexhausted packaging material/ wrapper had also been allowed upto September 30, 2017 after making the necessary corrections.
Considering the requests received to extend the permission for some more time, display on the revised MRP due to implementation of GST by way of stamping or putting sticker or online has been extended up to March 31, 2018.
Further, the government has reduced the rates of GST on certain specified items, permission has been granted under subrule (3) of rule 6 of the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011, up to March 31, 2018 to affix an additional sticker or stamping or online printing for declaring the reduced MRP on the prepackaged commodity. In this case also, the earlier Labelling/ Sticker of MRP will continue to be visible.
For the ease of doing business, an advisory was issued to all stakeholders that loose readymade garments are not covered under the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011.
In the interest of consumers, advisory was issued to the controllers of Legal Metrology of all states/uts to enforce provisions related to overcharging and dual MRP. The Maharashtra government issued notices for compliance of provisions of rules related to overcharging to Vankhade Stadium, Mumbai, after which they asked their vendors to comply with the provisions of the notified rules.
To safeguard the interest of consumers, advisory has been issued to all state governments to ensure all declarations, including MRP on all medical devices.
Advisory in the interest of consumers was also issued to all state governments to ensure the correct quantity of petrol/ diesel and LPG cylinders.
BUREAU OF INDIAN STANDARDS (BIS) ACT 2016:
A new Bureau of Indian standards (BIS) Act 2016 which was notified on March 22, 2016, has been brought into force with effect from
October 12, 2017. The Act establishes the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) as the National Standards Body of India.
It has enabling provisions for the government to bring under compulsory certification regime any goods or article of any scheduled industry, process, system or service which it considers necessary in the public interest or for the protection of human, animal or plant health, safety of the environment, or prevention of unfair trade practices, or national security.
Enabling provisions have also been made for making hallmarking of the precious metal articles mandatory. The new Act also allows multiple types of simplified conformity assessment schemes, including self-declaration of conformity against a standard which will give simplified options to manufacturers to adhere to the standards and get certificate of conformity.
The Act enables the Central government to appoint any authority/ agency, in addition to the BIS, to verify the conformity of products and services to a standard and issue certificate of conformity. Further, there is provision for repair or recall, including product liability of the products bearing standard mark but not conforming to the relevant Indian standard.
The new Act will further help in ease of doing business in the country, give fillip to Make in India campaign and ensure availability of quality products and services to the consumers. Bureau of Indian Standards Rules, 2017 were also notified on October 13, 2017.
An international conference on consumer protection was held on October 26-27, 2017 in New Delhi in association
with UNCTAD having participation from countries in the East, South and South-east Asia with the theme “Empowering Consumers in New Markets”. At the conference, around 1,800 delegates, including around 60 foreign delegates, participated in the conference.
The key issues discussed during conference were United Nations guidelines for consumer protection and their implementation; stakeholder participation in consumer protection; protection of online consumers; fostering consumer inclusion in financial services; consumer education and empowerment; and special challenges in protecting vulnerable and economically disadvantaged consumers.
The conference inter-alia drew conclusions such as - comprehensive implementation of the United Nations guidelines for consumer protection as a priority for governments and stakeholders in ensuring more effective and better coordinated protection efforts in all countries and across all areas of commerce; protection of consumers’ rights in the digital context as a key for a sustainable and inclusive development of e-commerce, which also needs to address cross-border cooperation and enforcement etc.
Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, along with MOS CR Chaudhary, at an exhibition in New Delhi
Ram Vilas Paswan, along with MOS CR Chaudhary, at World Standards Day event in New Delhi
Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, along with MOS MOS CR Chaudhary, at the launch of Swachhta Pakhwada in New Delhi