-Gunjan Chhabra, Partner, Adwitya Legal LLP

The Consumer Protection Act, 2019(“new Act”) has been enforced with effect from 20.07.2020. As evident from the insertion of 70 new sections in the Act, wide and pervasive changes have been brought about in the previous regime. Several provisions, which were much required have been brought into effect and the new Act has also codified some provisions which were much required. Here’s a tabular comparison of certain important provisions brought into effect by the new Act, and how they stood as per the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 (“old Act”)

Definition of ConsumerThere was no recognition of online transaction under previous act[1].In new act, scope of word “buys any good” has been increased to include online transactions[2].
Including Individual under the definition of PersonNo such provision[3]Under new Act, definition of person have been expanded to include an individual as person.[4]
Advertisement and Misleading AdvertisementNo such provision.Section 2 (1) & Section 2 (28) have been introduced which define Advertisement and Misleading Advertisement respectively.   
Consumer Association as ComplainantAlthough the old Act was silent to some extent, case law even earlier enabled other voluntary consumer associations to file complaint. The old Act was a bit unclear in this respect  Under new Act, now any voluntary consumer association registered under any law can be complainant[5].  
Minor recognized as consumerNo provision. Minor can also be complainant in case he is consumer and he would be represented by his parent or legal guardian.[6] 
Renaming of District ForumEarlier, Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum (“CDRF”) was established at district level.[7] Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum (CDRF)     has been renamed as       District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (“DCDRC”). There can be more than one DCDRC in one district.   
MediationNo express provisionNow an entire Chapter V has been added in the act to provide detailed provisions with regard to appointment of mediators, duties of mediators and the procedure of mediation to be followed.
There will be Consumer Mediation Cell attached to each DCDRC, State Commission and National Commission. 

All three forums, DCDRC, State Commission and National Commission have authority refer disputes to  mediation[8] and to nominate mediator from the panel of the mediator. 

An additional push has been provided to mediation by providing that no appeals would lie, in case a matter is resolved by mediation.  
Pecuniary jurisdictionEarlier CDRF had authority to adjudicate upon the matters with value less than Rs. 20 Lakh.[9]Similarly, for State Commission, it was more than Rs 20 lakh and less than Rs. 1 crore.[10]National Commission had authority to entertain those matter whose value was more than Rs. 1 crore.[11]In new Act, DCDRC has the authority to adjudicate upon matters with value less than Rs. 1 Crore. State Commission is empowered with authority to hear matters with value more than Rs. 1 crore but less than Rs. 10 crore. Matters with value more than Rs.10 crore are to be heard by National Commission.[12] 
Consumer Protection CouncilNo such authority.It has been provided for the establishment of Consumer Protection Council at Central level. This authority will prevent abuse of consumer by promoting rights of consumer, preventing unfair trade practice, stopping false or misleading advertisement and other steps for protection of consumer’s right.[13]
Time Limit for Appeal from DCDRC (earlier CDRF) to State CommissionEarlier, the time-limit for filing appeal from DCDRF’s order to State Commission was 30 days[14]Now, time limits have been increased by 25 days. Thus, appeal can be filed from DCDRC’s Order at State Commission within 45 days from the date of the order.[15]
New Concept of “Unfair Contract” No such provision Act provides definition for “Unfair Contract”. A Contract which has onerous terms like allowing one party to terminate contract unilaterally without reasonable reason, or imposing unreasonable charge on the consumer have been termed as Unfair Contract under this Act.[16] Complaint can also be filed under new Act for adoption of Unfair Contract by trader or service provider.[17] Only National Commission and State Commission has jurisdiction to entertain complaints with regard to Unfair Contract and power to declare any terms of contract as null and void, if they find such term unfair to customer.[18]
Definition of Unfair Trade Practicethe old Act provided list of activities which can be termed as Unfair Trade Practice.[19]Several other activities are included under Unfair Trade Practice like not issuing cash memo, not taking back the defective sold goods, providing personal information of consumer to others etc.[20] in effect data protection is finding place in the new act as well. 
Second Appeal on Substantial question of law to National CommissionNo such provision. Only revisional jurisdiction could be exercised by National Commission.[21]Now along with a First Appeal form the State Commission, the provision for a Second Appeal from the order of the State Commission has also been provided, which lies to National Commission, provided that the second appeal involves a substantial question of law.[22]
JurisdictionEarlier complaint could lie where cause of action arose or where respondents reside.[23]Now in addition to previous position of law with regard to jurisdiction, complaint can be also filed where complainant resides or personally works for gain.[24]
Introducing new concept of Product liabilityNo such provision.Starting from providing definition of product[25] the new Act introduces the concept of product liability which allows a consumer to file complaint against product manufacturer or product seller of any product   for compensation under the new Act for harm caused due to defective product manufactured. 

The new Act also provides definition of product manufacturer which includes person selling the product. 

By virtue of Chapter VI, National Commission and the State Commission now gets authority to hear complaints for compensation under product liability action.[26] 

Under this chapter product liability action may be brought  against  -;
1. Product Manufacturer
2. Product Service provider 
3. Product Seller for harm caused due to defective product. 

However, certain exceptions are also provided to Product Liability Action, like no liability when product was misused, altered or modified at the time of harm or used under the influence of drug/ alcohol which had not been prescribed by a medical practitioner or in other mentioned circumstances.
Specific Inclusion of Home BuyersNot applicable to immovable property, but buyers were still by way of case law, recognized to be consumers.  The new Act, similar to the old Act, excludes its applicability on immovable property. However the one exception to this rule, which has now been expressly included in the new Act, is that it provides definition of Product Seller which includes person engaged in sale of constructed or under construction house or flats.[27] Thus sale of houses and flats can now be looked at, from the prism of product liability as provided for, under the new Act. 
Establishment of Central Consumer Protection AuthorityNo Provision.Chapter III of the new Act provides for the establishment of new Central Authority, termed as Central Consumer Protection Authority. Its main objective is to regulate matters relating to violation of rights of consumers, unfair trade practice and other matters. 

On a reference made to District Collector by Central Authority, District collector may inquire or investigate complaints regarding violation of consumer rights or in others matter. 

The Main function of this authority is to promote and protect consumer rights and to prevent other activities which would lead to violation of consumers rights.  

This authority also has the power to recall goods if they are found to be dangerous, hazardous or unsafe. If person is aggrieved by the order of the authority then appeal can be filed to National Commission.[28] 
Investigation by National CommissionNo such provision.National Commission has authority to investigate into any allegations against the President and members of State Commission.[29]
Asking Experts to assistAlthough no express provision, but consumer fora could appoint experts as per various case laws laid down.   National Commission or State Commission may ask for the assistance from Individual or organization in cases where large interest of consumers is involved.[30]
Establishment of monitoring cellNo such provision.There will be monitoring cell to be constituted by President of National Commission which will oversee the State commission’s functioning from the administrative point of view.[31]
Offences and PenaltyNo such provision.If person does not comply with the order of Central Authority then he will be imprisoned for 6 months or to provide fine which may extend to Rs. Twenty lakhs.[32] 

Additionally, punishment for other activities have been provided which includes misleading advertisement, manufacturing for sale or for storing or distributing or importing of spurious good or of products containing adulterant.[33]  
Penalty for non- compliance of order of State Commission or National CommissionEarlier, if person did not comply with the order of commission, then he/she had to pay fine ranging from two thousand to ten thousand rupees. Now, the fine limit has been increased to range from twenty five thousand to one lakh rupees.[34]
Measures for E- commerceNo such provision.Central Government can take those measures which prevent unfair trade practice in e-commerce.[35] In fact the Consumer Protection E-Commerce Rules, 2020 have been notified by the Government of India on 20.07.2020 also, and covers the selling of goods and services including digital products over digital or electronic networks.   
Enforceable as decreeAlthough no express provision, but orders of all three fora were always recognized to have authority of a decree and were enforceable as such.   Now specific provision has been introduced in the new Act. Orders passed by National Commission, State Commission or District Commission will be enforced as decree of civil court.[36]

Grateful to Mr. Akash Kishore, student of law, currently interning with Adwitya Legal LLP for his research inputs.

[1] Section 2 (7)-The Consumer Protection Act, 1986

[2] Section 2 (7) Explanation (b)- The Consumer Protection Act, 2019

[3] Section 2 (m) , The Consumer Protection Act, 1986

[4] Section 2 (31) (i)- The Consumer Protection Act, 2019

[5] Section 2(5)(ii) – The Consumer Protection Act, 2019

[6] Section 2 (5)- The Consumer Protection Act, 2019

[7] Section 9 (a)- The Consumer Protection Act, 1989

[8] Section 28 r/w Section 37(1),  Chapter V -The Consumer Protection Act, 2019

[9] Section 11(1)- The Consumer Protection Act, 1986

[10] Section 17(a) (i)- The Consumer Protection Act, 1986

[11] Section 21(a) (i)- The Consumer Protection Act, 1986

[12] Section 34(1), Section 47(1) (a) (i), Section 58(1) (a) (i)- The Consumer Protection Act, 2019

[13] Chapter III- The Consumer Protection Act, 2019

[14] Section 19- The Consumer Protection Act, 1986

[15] Section 41- The Consumer Protection Act, 2019

[16]  Section 2 (46) – The Consumer Protection Act, 2019.

[17]  Section 2 (6) (i)- The Consumer Protection Act, 2019.

[18] Section 49 (2), Section 59 (2)- The Consumer Protection Act, 2019

[19]  Section 2 (r) – The Consumer Protection Act,1986

[20] Section 2 (47) (vii) – The Consumer Protection Act, 2019.

[21] Section 21- The Consumer Protection Act, 1986

[22] Section 51 (2)- The Consumer Protection Act, 1986

[23] Section 34 (2) The Consumer Protection Act, 1986

[24] Section 34 (2) (d)- The Consumer Protection Act, 2019.

[25]  Section 2 (33) , The Consumer Protection Act, 2019.

[26] Section 2 (34), Section 2(35), Section 39 and Chapter V- The Consumer Protection Act, 2019.

[27]  Section 2 (37) , The Consumer Protection Act, 2019.

[28] Chapter III- The Consumer Protection Act, 2019          

[29] Section 70 (1)(b)- The Consumer Protection Act, 2019

[30] Section 66- The Consumer Protection Act, 2019

[31] Section 70 (2)- The Consumer Protection Act, 2019

[32] Section 88- The Consumer Protection Act, 2019    

[33] Section 89 & Section 90 & Section 91- The Consumer Protection Act, 2019   

[34] Section 72- The Consumer Protection Act, 2019    

[35] Section 94 – The Consumer Protection Act, 2019   

[36] Section 71- The Consumer Protection Act, 2019    


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