Jaitley bats for giving consumers powers to file class action suits

Tomojit Basu New Delhi | Updated on January 24, 2018 Published on May 29, 2015

Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Minister for Consumer Affairs Ram Vilas Paswan at conference in New Delhi. - SANDEEP SAXENA

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley advocated the need for consumers to be able to file class action suits against fraudulent sellers, particularly in the era of e-commerce which is dynamically changing the marketplace at an event here on Friday.

The possibility of using legal means to address the issue of sale of goods and services online has been accommodated in the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, amendment Bill which is awaiting Cabinet approval.

“Many concerns have been factored in, among this the question of class action. While it was obliquely mentioned in the earlier law, it was almost never used. The volume of e-commerce trade is going to increase, that’s how trade will change. We need a powerful and efficient consumer fora,” he said at the ‘National Conference on Effective Functioning of Consumer Fora’.

“Globally, the best practice is allowing a class action in these cases where a class of goods is found to be defective and a large number of people are deceived. You also have to regulate the extent of reviews and appeals and the grounds on which multiple appeals can be filed,” he explained, adding that the online marketplace was changing “the landscape of jurisdiction” with the concept being “substantially diluted”.

“I don’t think funds (to strengthen consumer fora) are really a problem, it’s the desire to send the funds in the right direction that’s important and both the Centre and the States will have to put their heads in order,” he added.

Parallel jurisdiction

Concerned about “parallel jurisdiction”, Justice D K Jain, the President of the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC), argued against the creation of a separate authority to file class action suits as suggested by amendments to the Act.

The amendment Bill suggests the creation of a Consumer Protection Authority to deal with complaints. Jain suggested that the Centre use the ordinance channel to implement changes suggested by the NCDRC to ensure the speedy disposal of cases.

“We have to render justice to consumers. The authority will have suo moto powers to take cognisance of complaints from the public, what is known as class action. I feel that with the present dispensation, it may result in two parallel jurisdictions and more Government and less governance,” he said.

Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan stated that the suits will be taken up by the NCDRC and said there was a need to have one overarching body.

“We want to streamline the various bodies dealing with consumer complaints to be brought under a single institution at the Central, State and district levels instead of a number of commissions and forums,” he said.

Published on May 29, 2015
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