Shri Piyush Goyal, Union Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Textiles, and Commerce & Industry, said effective enforcement of laws is necessary to protect consumer interest and encourage high-quality products and services, but legal provisions should not be used to harass small businessmen and traders.
Addressing a day-long event on “Fair Digital Finance” on the occasion of the World Consumer Rights Day, Shri Goyal highlighted the plight of small businesses and said: “It is necessary to stop harassment of small traders and small businessmen in the name of law.”
In his inaugural address, the minister flagged the issue the need to decriminalize of certain provisions of Legal Metrology Act and lauded the initiative taken by various authorities to protect the interests and rights of consumers, but he also urged all the stakeholders to deliberate on the issue of decriminalization.
Shri Goyal in his inaugural address flagged the issue pertaining to the need for decriminalization of certain provisions of Legal Metrology Act and urged all the stakeholders to deliberate on the implications of decriminalization keeping in view of ease of doing business as well as protecting consumers.
Shri Ashwini Kumar Choubey, Minister of State for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution and Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Ms. Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti, Minister of State for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Shri Mr Justice R K Agarwal, President of National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC), Shri Nandan Nilekani, Non-Executive Chairman of Infosys, and other dignitaries also attended the event.
Shri Goyal said there were about 90,000 persons booked for first offence under various Sections of Legal Metrology Act 2009 and around 90% of these cases under three Sections that is Section 33, 36 (1) and 25 of Legal Metrology Act which deal with penalties for using unverified weight of measurement, selling non-standard products, and use of non-standard weights and measure.
He shared the yearly data of the first offence, which can be compounded, and the second offence, which can lead to imprisonment under the LM Act. In 2018-19, cases registered under first offence were 89,724 while under second offence were only 11. Similarly, in 2019-20, cases registered under the first offence were 91,818 while under the second offence were only 2 cases. In 2020-21, cases registered under the first offence were 84,824 while under the second offence there was zero case registered.
“Large number of first offences and almost nil second offences calls for introspection by all of us. Therefore, it is imperative that we ensure small entrepreneurs are not harassed by misuse of law,” he said. He expressed the hope that by the World Consumer Rights Day next year, decriminalization of certain provision of Legal Metrology Act should reach finality, and urged all stakeholders to discuss the matter.
Shri Goyal shared instances of actions being taken by the Department of Consumer Affairs against misleading advertisements. He said that action was taken against a Toothpaste company claiming to be World’s No. 1. Similar action was taken against another company claiming to have sold out the stock within no time.
“If you want to know about the power of Consumers, then look at India and see how demand by proactive consumers for high-quality products have spurred Indian companies to perform better,” he added.
He said that today is World Consumer Rights Day. With rights come responsibilities of officers as well as consumers. “I have suggested for virtual hearing of Consumer Courts to facilitate Consumers,” he stated.
Shri Goyal also talked about the Quality Standardisation work being undertaken by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) mentioning that hallmarking has provided consumers with the long-due right to Quality, Purity & transparency. He said that till December 2021, more than 1.3 lakh jewellers have taken registration from BIS for selling gold hallmarked jewellery, while 987 BIS recognized assaying & hallmarking centres are operative in the country.
Taking the message of Prime Minister Shi Narendra Modi ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas and Sabka Prayas’ forward he urged all the state governments, industry associations and other stakeholders to put forth their best efforts in bringing a balance between allowing genuine business opportunities while taking stringent action against unfair business practices which are detrimental to consumer protection and tries to circumvent the existing law.
He also highlighted that business should support new policy decisions which are aimed at furthering consumer protection and requested them to constructively work with government to create holistic environment for business as well as consumer protection.
He further emphasized that Consumers need to be more aware, should demand quality products and thereby endeavor to make India a world leader in providing high quality product and services.
Union Minister Shri Piyush Goyal, applauded the progress of e –daakhil portal which enables online filing of consumer complaints and urged the authorities to facilitate virtual hearings in all cases. Highlighting ‘justice delayed is justice denied’ he expressed his concern over number of vacant positions in various State and District Consumer Commissions and the fact that Supreme Court had to intervene. He urged all the State Governments to fill up their vacancies at the earliest.
The Chief Guest for the event Nandan Nilekani attended the event virtually and in his address pressed on the need for changing with the changing digital platforms and highlighted that with the increasing complex digital protocols, one has to be prepared for more complex consumer redressal methods which requires a wholesome approach by the Government. In this regard, he highlighted the need to redesign the consumer dispute redressal mechanism taking into consideration of Artificial Intelligence and making use of speech to speech, speech to text and text to speech open platforms to make the online dispute resolution mechanism available in multi lingual format. He highlighted that, today’s digital transactions are multi party and hence resolution of such disputes have multi party requirement. With growth in scale and speed of Digital finance in a never seen like before pace, India should usher a new era of consumer redressal and make sure that every Indian gets access to easy consumer redressal.
The Minister of State for Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution and Rural Development Sadhvi Nirajan Jyoti in her keynote address underlined that digital technology and new business models are completely changing our ability to reach poor and excluded households with financial services. Government has always strived to bring greater financial inclusion and this is well reflected in the fact that, here was a 24% improvement in financial inclusion (FI) between March 2017 and March 2021 and as of February 2022 over 8 billion transactions are made through UPI and India payments to 428 million recipients of various Covid relief programs were made through UPI. Further, Minister urged that combined efforts should be made in making digital finance, more sound, safe and secure for consumers.
The Minister of State for Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution & Environment, Forest and Climate Change Shri Ashwini Kumar Choubey in his key note address stressed on need for innovative regulatory approaches and digital financial services and products that centre consumer protection and empowerment. Shri Choubey in his keynote address observed that Digital finance provides more accessible and affordable services to consumers and kept business alive during pandemic, however, also exposes consumers to new risks that have the potential to adversely impact the trust of consumers, destabilize financial markets, and discourage uptake and usage of digital financial services eroding the gains made in financial inclusion. Therefore, it is vital to have strategic regulation and timely intervention which reflects better consumer protection in expanding horizon of digital finance.
The Minister of State for Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution and Rural Development Sadhvi Nirajan Jyoti and Minister of State for Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution & Environment, Forest and Climate Change Shri Ashwini Kumar Choubey inaugurated virtual exhibition organized by Department of Consumer Affairs as a part of its iconic week celebrations under ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’.
President NCDRC Hon’ble Mr. Justice, R.K Agrawal in his keynote address highlighted the paradigm shift in technological advancements that world has seen in the global era of digitization. He stressed that Digital Financial Services has become a vital tool for increasing productivity, reach, financial inclusion as well as efficiency – not for individuals and corporates alone, but for a country as a whole. President, NCDRC concluded his keynote address highlighting the need for Financial Regulators, Telecom Operators and Central Payment System Authority to ensure best risk management for all consumers.
The Ministers also congratulated winners of essay competition organized by National Law University Delhi, in association with Department of Consumer Affairs and Inter School online painting competition organized by FICCI Committee Against Smuggling and Counterfeiting Activities Destroying the Economy (CASCADE) in association with Department of Consumer Affairs as a part of celebration of World Consumer Rights Day 2022
Meanwhile, Shri Goyal along with other Ministers and dignatries released the following books:
Quarterly Digest of Important Decisions taken by Supreme Court, NCDRC and SCDRC prepared by National Law University, Delhi.
Consumer Handbook on Product Liability and Frequently Asked Questions
Handbook on Consumer Protection Act, 2019
Consumer is King (5th edition)
Shri Rohit Kumar Singh, Secretary Department of Consumer Affairs, Ms. Nidhi Khare Additional Secretary along with other dignitaries were present at the event.