Consumer is king if new law gets nod

The famous 1992 McDonald’s Coffee Case, where the fast food chain had to cough up $640,000 as compensation to 79-year-old Stella Liebeck for “unreasonably dangerous” and “defectively manufactured” coffee, could soon repeat itself in India.

The new Consumer Protection Bill 2016 that seeks to replace a 31-year-old archaic law, has provisions to sue a manufacturer for not “giving adequate instructions of correct usage to prevent any harm or any warning regarding improper or incorrect usage.”

“So if a fast food chain does not serve coffee with adequate warning, then a lawsuit can be filed against them,” a senior official at the Department of Consumer Affairs said.

Two-year wait

The Bill, which has been languishing for the last two years will soon come up for Cabinet approval. “We have forwarded it to the Cabinet, hopefully, it will come up in few days. The law will give the consumers respect they deserve,” Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said.

The Bill replaces the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. The new law has provisions for Product Liability, which was unheard in India. The Bill was first introduced on August 10, 2015 and referred to the standing committee on August 26. The panel submitted its report in August 2016, suggesting 80 amendments. This sent the government back to the drawing board, to rewrite the law.

Under the new draft, even the service providers like airlines can face liability action. “A flyer can sue an airline seeking not just reimbursement for a missed flight but also compensation for any important event or meeting he or she missed because the flight was cancelled at last minute,” the senior official added.

The consumer can lodge a complaint from anywhere unlike the existing law under which a consumer had to register the complaint at the same place from where she purchased the product. Further, unlike the 1986 law, the complainant need not be accompanied by a lawyer. At any point, if the manufacturer and the complainant arrive at compromise through mediation process, the latter can withdraw the complaint.

Trinamool Congress MP Dinesh Trivedi had paid an advance for a car. Later, he realised that the car dealer had shown him the brochure of a vehicle that was to be launched a year later. But he could not take any action under the existing law. However, as per the new law, he or she can approach the Consumer Forum for being misled.

The Bill proposes an investigative body, the Central Consumer Protection Authority, on the lines of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

The law will give consumers the respect they deserve

Ram Vilas



Affairs Minister

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