The new Consumer Protection Bill 2017, approved by the Union Cabinet on 20 December last year, is likely to give more power to consumers, especially those who use e-platforms, say consumer rights experts. The proposed law will shape the country’s e-commerce sector, according to consumer rights advocacy groups.

According to consumer rights experts, the proposed law will replace the existing 32-year-old consumer protection law and recognise the growing complexity of the business landscape of the rapidly growing e-commerce sector.

The need for a strong consumer protection law is driven by the belief that many e-commerce companies in India may be engaging in business malpractices and possibly evading taxes, leading to loss of revenues for the government.

The Consumer Protection Bill 2017 proposes to establish an authority to safeguard the interests of consumers and facilitate a faster consumer redressal mechanism.

V.K Singh, a Delhi-based lawyer who works with several consumer advocacy groups, told The Sunday Guardian: “The new regulatory authority will have powers to recall goods and services and also initiate class action lawsuits against companies that are defaulting against the statutes of the law and these will now, explicitly, include Indian e-commerce companies.”

The advertising fraternity has also welcomed the proposed law. Harshit Gupta, one of the directors of Brand Wagon, a Delhi-based advertising company, told The Sunday Guardian: “The bill will target misleading advertisements, online multi-level marketing, direct selling practices and many other potentially unethical business practices which might exploit consumers.”

While several consumer rights advocates have applauded the government for bringing the new consumer protection bill, a section of rights advocates have raised their concern, saying that there is a need for creating a repository of information from where consumers can get the right information to avoid misleading advertising.

“The concept of ‘misleading advertisement’ is not explained in the bill and there is no mention in the bill from where consumers will verify whether an advertisement is right or misleading. Therefore, the fundamental requirement for a redressal mechanism is to provide a repository of more information for consumers,” Gupta said.

Furthermore, several associations like the Indian Direct Selling Association (IDSA) have also applauded the Cabinet’s nod to the new consumer protection bill. Amit Chadha, IDSA secretary general, said: “We thank the Council of Ministers for deciding to approve such a vital bill that will strengthen the market and consumers’ relationship in the country.”

 

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