The Lok Sabha on Thursday passed the Consumer Protection Bill, 2018. The bill, which was introduced in the Lok Sabha in January, mandates a harsh penalty and even imprisonment for misleading ads and food adulteration. The bill will now go in the Rajya Sabha for discussion. Once passed, the bill will replace the Consumer Protection Bill, 1986.
The Consumer Protection Bill, 2018, is also expected to put an end to such misleading and false claims by manufacturers and service providers. However, some sections of the bill had sparked a debate across the legal, advertising and talent management industry, especially the clause that could lead to punitive measures and ban on celebrities for endorsing misleading advertisements.
The provision in the new bill, which recommends product liability action if it harms the consumer due to its quality or flawed services, has also been severely criticised. Experts say it is "unjustified" to hold a celebrity liable for merely appearing or lending his or her voice or face. The advertising world, too, has a different take on the new bill. While a section of adfilm makers have questioned the relevance of imposing fines and punishing the celebrities, others have questioned the real intent of the bill.
Any manufacture who indulges in sale or storage or distribution or import of any spurious goods will get strict punishment and fine if that causes injury or death to a consumer, says the new law. The punishment will vary as per the degree of the offense. Here are details on the punishment for misleading ads and selling adulterated goods.
- Any manufacturer or service provider, who causes a false or misleading advertisement which is prejudicial to the interest of consumers, shall be punished with at least two-year jail and with fine that may extend to Rs 10 lakh.
- For every subsequent offence, the person may be punished for jail term up to five years and up to Rs 50 lakh fine.
- Whoever, by himself or by any other person on his behalf, manufactures for sale any product containing an adulterant shall be punished even if such act does not result in any injury to the consumer. The accused may get jail term up to six months and fine of Rs 1 lakh. In case of injury, but not amounting to 'grievous hurt' to the consumer, the accused may invite a jail term of one year and Rs 3 lakh fine.
- In case of injury resulting in 'grievous hurt' to the consumer, the accused may get jail up to 7 years and fine up to Rs 5 lakh. If the consumer dies due to the product containing adulterant, the accused may get jail terms up to seven years, which may extend to imprisonment for life, and fine up to Rs 10 lakh. These offenses are cognizable and non-bailable, says the law.
- The court may, in case of first conviction, suspend any licence issued to the person or manufacturer for two years, and in case of second or subsequent conviction, cancel the licence altogether.
Edited by Manoj Sharma