Bhamy V. Shenoy
Consumer Protection Bill (CPB) 2018 was passed by the Lok Sabha on Dec 20th, 2018. Actually this bill was tabled in 2015. However Rajya Sabha did not pass the bill and the new Parliament has to take this up after the election.
CPB was not at all controversial. All political parties would have been interested to support the long suffering consumers if only they realized that their voters demand from them a robust act to protect their rights. After all all voters are consumers in one way or the other. But it did not happen. New bill had several consumer friendly provisions. It would have established a Central Consumer Protection Authority to protect consumer rights and to look into misleading advertisements, had provisions to fine and ban on celebrities for endorsing misleading advertisements, would have encouraged alternate dispute litigation mechanisms etc.
Consumer Voice, a well known Delhi based consumer protection NGO has started a petition to urge all the political parties to pass the consumer protection bill (CPB 2018) when the new Parliament meets after the election. CV publishes a monthly magazine to inform the consumers of the comparative testing of products and services. Such information is invaluable for consumers and not to be misled by all kinds of ads.
Unless we the citizens show interest, new parliament irrespective of which combination of parties come to rule is unlikely to take this bill on a priority basis. What a shame that even after passage of four long years, we have failed to have a progressive consumer protection act to replace the one of 1986. This is mostly because of consumer indifference.
Some efforts have been made in the past to get signatures for petition like this, but none achieved the critical mass of at least one lakh signatures ( even one lakh is not much to speak of in a society where crores are active on the social network).
Some may argue what is the use of passing another law when the previous law has not really helped the consumers as expected. Consumer courts established under previous law have adapted the dysfunctional culture of general courts giving never ending adjournments and has failed to uphold the spirit of giving judgements with no or minimum adjournment in 90 days. This is mostly because we the citizens have failed in our responsibility of putting pressure on the government to implement the law properly. Hopefully the new consumer movement which is now being promoted by some NGOs to push the political parties to adapt a more progressive act may make a difference.
We all talk of how social network plays an important role. Can anything be more important than helping the consumers who face problems every day while buying goods and services either from the public or private sectors? If we the citizens take interest, we should be able to get at least a million signatures to the petition. It will definitely make a difference. Link to sign to petition is at http://chng.it/LfD68DFn. Soon after reading the article, do not postpone to sign it. It takes less than a minute. Let us get inspired by Swami Vivekananda’s words, “Arise, awake and stop not till the goal is reached”. Our goal is to get millions to sign the petition to convince all the political leaders to put consumer protection on their manifesto.
Bhamy V. Shenoy is a governing council member of Consumer Voice.