A new consumer rights law is in force, but without a strong class-action ecosystem, not much may change
While the Consumer Protection Act 1986 guaranteed protection of the rights of consumers, it was not equipped to deal with digital-age problems, where e-commerce and direct sellers get away with infractions. However, the government introduced a new Bill last year that created a regulator—the previous consumer protection law had no regulator—to secure consumers’ rights. The new law comes into effect today, and one of the biggest changes is the right of a consumer to sue a company at the place of her residence and not where the company specifies. More important, the consumer can also request attendance/hearings via video conference, which will cut the cost of litigation. The Act also fixes liabilities on sellers for misleading advertisement and faulty product/service, and states that cases must be closed at the earliest.
The government is still to address some challenges, and the Economic Times reports that e-commerce rules will take a week or two to be notified. Despite several attempts by courts to give a verdict within 15 days of the hearing, cases have dragged on for outrageous lengths of time. Without a strong tort law ecosystem, the consumer will likely not get a fair deal. Class action will make a stronger case for the court to impose a pinching penalty on errant firms, which would then perhaps ensure that the consumer is not taken for granted. Else, a mere change in law will mean little.