Know Your Ministry No.9: Consumer Affairs

Economic development of any country starts and ends with consumers. The Consumer Affairs Ministry is headed by a Cabinet rank Minister and assisted by a Minister of State. The Department of Consumer Affairs is one of the two Departments under the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution. It was constituted as a separate Department in June 1997 as it was considered necessary to have a separate Department to give a fillip to the nascent consumer movement in the country. The Department of Consumer Affairs has been entrusted with the following functions:

  • Implementation of Consumer Protection Act, 1986.
  • Implementation of Bureau of Indian Standards Act, 2016
  • Implementation of Standards of Weights and Measures - The Legal Metrology Act, 2009.
  • Regulation of Packaged Commodities.
  • The Essential Commodities Act, 1955 (Supply, Prices and Distribution of Essential Commodities not dealt with specifically by any other Department).
  • Prevention of Black Marketing and Maintenance of Supply of Essential Commodities Act, 1980.
  • Monitoring of prices and availability of essential commodities.
  • Internal Trade
  • Training in Legal Metrology.
  • The Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1952.
  • Laying down specifications, standards and codes and ensuring quality control of bio-fuels for end uses.
  • Consumer Cooperatives
  • National Test House.

Acts & Rules: Consumer Protection, Legal Metrology, Bureau of Indian Standards, The Emblems and Names (Protection of Improper Use) Act, 1950, The Essential Commodities Act, 1955, The Prevention of Black Marketing and Maintenance of Supplies of Essential Commodities Act, 1980 and Recruitment Rules.

Organisation and Units:

  • Divisions: Internal Trade, Vigilance, Parliament and Coordination, Consumer Welfare Fund, Legal Metrology, Consumer Cooperatives, Establishment, Integrated Finance, Emblems and Names, Essential Commodity, Public Grievances, Publicity, Bureau of Indian Standards, Consumer Protection Unit, General Administration, National Test House, Official Language, Organization and Method, eGovernance
  • Statutory Bodies – National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC)
  • Attached Offices – National Test House (NTH): Related to Railways
  • Autonomous Body – Bureau of Indian Standards

MISSING INFORMATION:

  1. Annual Reports and Periodical Publications related to Consumer Affairs.
  2. State-wise Data related to status of cases pending across various Consumer Courts in the country.
  3. Consumer Awareness Policy and related guidelines.
  4. Details related to listed categories under Essential and Non-essential commodities.
  5. State-wise Information related to prices of essential commodities and its periodical updation.
  6. Government notifications related to specifications, standards and codes to ensure quality control, maintenance, stock of all essential commodities including bio-fuels for end uses.
  7. New Legislation under Consumer Proction enacted during the year 2019

CHALLENGES BEFORE THE MINISTRY FOR CONSUMER AFFAIRS

  1. Strengthen and Implement of the four basic consumer rights of — the Right to safety, Right to be informed, Right to choose and Right to be heard under the existing legal framework.
  2. Enforce the cardinal principles of speedy, inexpensive and informal justice in its true letter and spirit.
  3. Legal impediments envisaged newly introduced like product liability, protection against unfair trade practices in e-commerce and punishment for misleading advertisements
  4. Effectiveness of the new Consumer Protection Councils at Centre, State and District level that render advice on the protection of consumer rights.
  5. Efficiency of Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission proposed in each District for redressal of consumer disputes, where the value of goods or services is upto Rs.100.00 Lakhs.

WAY FORWARD

Government of India has took almost one year for notifying the new consumer protection law of 2019 to implement its substantial provisions from July 20, 2020. The Department of Consumer affairs needs to delinked from the food and public distribution department as it amounts to conflict of interest and does not permit the authorities to have a determined focus to safeguard Rights of consumers. It’s high time that the Rights of Consumers are not only protected but also the awareness needs to be widely spread. Litigations related to Consumer Cases and grievances have to be disposed and settled with the statutory timelines.

 

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