Sunday, January 8, 2012

Consumer Protection (Amendment) Act, 2011 Proposes E-Filing

Consumer Protection Act, 1986 is one of the most pro active laws of India. It was serving its legislative purpose very well till information and communication technology (ICT) related issues overshadowed its utility. Telecom disputes and consumer protection in India received biggest jolt when the Supreme Court of India ousted the jurisdiction of consumer forums over telecom related disputes. The Supreme Court order declared that in case of telecom disputes, consumer forums/courts do not have jurisdiction as appropriate remedy is by way of arbitration.

This was not a good decision and it needs to be “Reviewed” by a Larger Bench of Supreme Court, suggests Praveen Dalal, Leading Techno Legal Expert of India and managing partner of techno legal ICT law firm Perry4Law. While the ambit, scope and merit of the order is debatable and controversial, yet it would be a good idea if the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) is properly amended to neutralise this decision, opines Dalal.

According to Dalal, the CPA was enacted long time back and contemporary ICT related disputes and dispute resolution mechanisms were well beyond Parliament’s contemplation at that time. However, it is high time for the Department of Consumer Affairs in general and Parliament of India in particular to bring suitable amendments in the CPA to make it more effective and responsive, suggests Dalal.

It seems the Parliament of India has agreed with the suggestions of Praveen Dalal regarding use of ICT for consumer dispute resolution mechanism in India. The proposed draft Consumer Protection (Amendment) Bill 2011 has now suggested using electronic mode for filing consumer complaints to the District Forum.

This is a good step in the right direction, says Praveen Dalal. However, the proposed Amendments have still to “Nullify” the decision of Supreme Court regarding Telecom Disputes in India. It would be a good idea if the Parliament of India also includes a provision to this effect in the proposed Bill, suggests Dalal.

These are good suggestions and hopefully Indian Parliament would incorporate them while passing the ultimate amending bill.