Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA)
The union Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution recently announced that a Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) will be established after consulting with industry representatives about the role and functioning of a proposed CCPA.
• Under section 10(1) of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019, CCPA is being constituted. The Act replaced The Consumer Protection Act, 1986, and seeks to widen its scope in addressing consumer concerns.
• The new Act recognises offences such as providing false information regarding the quality or quantity of a good or service, and misleading advertisement.
• The CCPA, introduced in the new Act, aims to protect the rights of the consumer by cracking down on unfair trade practices, and false and misleading advertisements that are detrimental to the interests of the public and consumers
The proposed authority will be a lean body with a Chief Commissioner as head, and only two other commissioners as members — one dealing with matters relating to goods while the other looking into cases relating to services.
It will be headquartered in the National Capital Region of Delhi but the central government may set up regional offices in other parts of the country.
It will have an investigation Wing headed by director general. This wing will have the powers to enter any premise and search for any document or article, and to seize these. For search and seizure, the CCPA will have similar powers given under the provisions of The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
District Collectors too, will have the power to investigate complaints of violations of consumer rights, unfair trade practices, and false or misleading advertisements.
CCPA will have the powers to inquire or investigate into matters relating to violations of consumer rights or unfair trade practices suo-moto, or on a complaint received, or on a direction from the central government.
CCPA will ensure that all standards on packaged food items set by regulators such as the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) are being followed.
CCPA will have powers to recall goods or withdrawal of services that are “dangerous, hazardous or unsafe; pass an order for refund the prices of goods or services so recalled to purchasers of such goods or services; and discontinuation of practices which are unfair and prejudicial to consumer’s interest”.
CCPA may ban the endorser of a false or misleading advertisement from making endorsement of any products or services in the future, for a period that may extend to one year. The ban may extend up to three years in every subsequent violation of the Act.
The CCPA can file complaints of violation of consumer rights or unfair trade practices before the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, and the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission. It will issue safety notices to alert consumers against dangerous or hazardous or unsafe goods or services.
Hence, the new Consumer Protection Act proposes a slew of measures and tightens the existing rules to further safeguard consumer rights by introducing a central regulator, strict penalties for misleading advertisements and guidelines for e-commerce and electronic service providers.
For manufacture, selling, storage, distribution, or import of adulterated products, the penalties are:
If injury is not caused to a consumer, fine up to Rs 1 lakh with imprisonment up to six months;
If injury is caused, fine up to Rs 3 lakh with imprisonment up to one year;
If grievous hurt is caused, fine up to Rs 5 lakh with imprisonment up to 7 years;
In case of death, fine of Rs 10 lakh or more with a minimum imprisonment of 7 years, extendable to imprisonment for life.