In the midst of corona virus pandemic here is good news for consumers. Shoppers can expect their life to get easier with this new Consumer Protection Rules for e-commerce which says seller can’t charge for cancellation fees if any consumer chooses to cancel their order after confirming any purchase. The New Consumer Protection Act,2019 has come in to force from 20 July, 2020, by expanding the definition of a consumer and provides with a wider range of powers by recognizing online transactions as well as provides the ability to institute complaints from anywhere. Unlike the earlier act, where the complaints could be initiated only in the place where the transaction took place or cause of action arose; as per the provisions of the new act “the complainant can institute the complaint within the territorial jurisdiction of the commission where the complainant resides or personally works”. With the salient features the new consumer act includes the establishment of the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) to protect, promote, and enforce the rights of consumers. The new Consumer Protection Act has provisions to deal with product liability, misleading advertisements, class actions, and liability for celebrity endorsements, while addressing new age developments like direct selling, Tele-marketing and e-commerce. As per the new act E-commerce platforms will now have to acknowledge consumer’s receipt of complaint within 48 hours and redress the complaint within a month from the date of that receipt. The new act also recognized both engaged the offline as well as online multi-level transactions. An important note under this Act for customers is that there will be no fee for filing case up to Rs
5 Lakh. There are provisions for filing complaints electronically, credit of amount due to unidentifiable consumers to Consumer Welfare Fund. The State Commissions will furnish information to central government on a quarterly basis on vacancies, pendency, disposal of cases and other matters. Also under this Act, every e-commerce body is required to provide all information regarding to refund, exchange, return, warranty and guarantee, modes of payment, delivery and shipment, payment methods, security of payment methods, charge back options, etc. including the country of origin, which is necessary for allowing the consumer to make an informed decision at the stage of pre purchase of the product. The act will also have powers to impose penalties on manufacturers, endorsers and publishers of misleading advertisements. The Central Consumer Protection Council will be constituted as an advisory body on consumer matters and will be headed by the Union Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution with the Minister of that State as Vice Chairperson and 34 other members from different fields. The Council, which has a three-year occupancy, will have a minister in charge of consumer affairs of two states from each region i.e. North, South, East, West, and Northeast. With the new act rule, district commission is authorized to handle consumer cases with claims of up to Rs 1 crore. District forum is name has been changed as district commission. In the new law the opposite party has to deposit 50% of the amount ordered by district commission before filing appeal before state commission. State commission will handle matters with claims of between Rs 1 crore and Rs 10 crore while the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) will handle all matters above Rs 10 crore. The State commission shall have a minimum of one president and four members in the commission. Most importantly, with this new Act, any terms of a contract which are not fair to consumer, can be declared as null and void by the state commission and National Consumer Disputes Redressal. Commission (NCDRC). This change will help consumer who is the victim of one sided agreements or terms and conditions imposed by the seller. The limitation period for filing of appeal to state commission is increased by 45 days from 30 days, while retaining power to condone the delay. The period of limitation in filing of complaint remains two years with a provision for condonation of delay power under Section 69 of the Act. The central authority will have an investigation wing headed by a director general for conducting investigation or inquiry under this Act as may be directed by the central authority.