GOVT TO AMEND CONSUMER LAW

With an aim to empower consumers, the government plans to amend a law to allow customers to file case against sellers from their place of residence. As per current norms, the case has to be filed at the place of transaction. Also, the requirement of engaging lawyers in the consumer forums is likely to be done away with, if the goods or services availed is of less than Rs 2 lakh value. According to sources, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs proposes to bring amendments to the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 to make it more effective. The proposed amendments would be sent to the Cabinet for approval after seeking views from other ministries, they added. The objective for bringing in amendments is to protect consumer rights by simplifying the judicial process to ensure speedy and inexpensive justice. "Currently, customers have to file case against sellers from the place where they have bought the goods. We propose to allow customers to file the case from the place where they reside," a source said, while giving details about changes proposed by the Ministry. "No lawyers shall be permitted for both the parties (consumers and sellers) if the value of good or service is less than Rs 2 lakh," the source said, adding that mediation between both the parties would be allowed except in certain cases. The amended Act is likely to have provisions to cover e-commerce companies and some other service providers like Railways and courier firms. To make the complaint registration procedure simpler for consumers, the Ministry has not prescribed any fixed format and the complaints can also be made online. After 21 days, the complaints would be deemed to be accepted. Concerned over the pending cases in consumer forums, sources said the department has proposed that there would be only one stage for appeal in higher forum. Recently, Food and Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan had said that the government plans to make amendments in the Consumer Protection Act to "make it more effective as protection of consumers in terms of quality, quantity and safety is of utmost importance." The government has proposed an authority under this law to protect consumers against unfair trade practices and also to keep a close watch on various consumer services also, he had said. Sources said the Central Consumer Protection Authority would be like an investigating agency, which will take up cases suo moto or complaints involving more than one person. It will promote, protect and enforce consumer rights and even recall hazardous products.

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