Year-End Review-2017: Department of Consumer Affairs
Following are the major highlights of the activities of the Department of Consumer Affairs during the year 2017:
PRICE MONITORING CELL (PMC)
A) Price Stabilization Fund (PSF)
• Buffer stock of upto 20 lakh tonnes of pulses has been built through domestic procurement and import for effective market intervention to stabilize their prices
o As on date, 17.14 lakh MT of pulses are available in the buffer after disposal of 3.36 lakh MT from 20.50 lakh tonnes, of which 3.79 lakh tonnes was imported and 16.71 lakh tonnes was procured domestically.
o Of 16.71 lakh tonnes procured domestically, 15.52 lakh tonnes was procured from KMS 2016-17 and RMS 2017-18 benefiting around 849,128 farmers
o Procurement and import of Onions undertaken through NAFED, SFAC and MMTC for stabilizing prices.
• Pulses from the buffer are being utilized for supply to States for distribution through their schemes; Ministries/Departments of Central Government having schemes with a nutrition component as well as those providing hospitality services either directly or through Private Agencies. In addition, pulses are also being disposed through auction in Market.
• These interventions, inter-alia, has ensured that prices of pulses remain at reasonable level during the year.
B) Strengthening of Price Monitoring Cell (PMC)
The Price Monitoring Cell is being strengthened at State level also by way of grants released to the State Government. Prices are stabilised by making appropriate policy recommendation and market intervention.
(1) Amendment made in the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011 to safeguard the interest of consumers and ease of doing business – (will come into force w.e.f. 01.01.2018):
· Goods displayed by the seller on e-commerce platform shall contain declarations required under the Rules.
· Specific mention is made in the rules that no person shall declare different MRPs (dual MRP) on an identical pre-packaged commodity.
· Size of letters and numerals for making declaration is increased, so that consumer can easily read the same.
· The net quantity checking is made more scientific.
· Bar Code/ QR Coding is allowed on voluntarily basis.
· Provisions regarding declarations on Food Products have been harmonized with regulation under the Food Safety & Standards Act.
· Medical devices which are declared as drugs, are brought into the purview of declarations to be made under the rules.
(2) Permission to display revised MRP due to reduction of rates of GST up to 31st December, 2017:
· On account of implementation of GST w.e.f. 1st July, 2017, there may be instances where the retail sale price of a pre-packaged commodity is required to be changed. In this context, Shri Ram Vilas Paswan, Union Minister for Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution had allowed the manufacturers or packers or importers of pre-packaged commodities to declare the revised retail sale price (MRP) in addition to the existing retail sale price (MRP), for three months w.e.f. 1st July 2017 to 30thSeptember, 2017. Declaration of the changed retail sale price (MRP) was allowed to be made by way of stamping or putting sticker or online printing, as the case may be, after taking into account the input tax credit.
· Use of unexhausted packaging material/wrapper had also been allowed upto 30th September, 2017 after making the necessary corrections.
· Considering the requests received to extend the permission for some more time, display on the revised MRP due to implementation of GST by way of stamping or putting sticker or online has been extended up to 31st March, 2018.
· Further Government has reduced the rates of GST on certain specified items, permission has been granted under sub-rule (3) of rule 6 of the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011, up to 31st March, 2018 to affix an additional sticker or stamping or online printing for declaring the reduced MRP on the pre-packaged commodity. In this case also, the earlier Labelling/ Sticker of MRP will continue to be visible.
· This relaxation is also applicable in the case of unsold stocks manufactured/ packed/ imported after 1st July, 2017 where the MRP would reduce due to reduction in the rate of GST post 1st July, 2017.
(3) Advisories issued:
· For ease of doing business, an advisory was issued to all stakeholders that loose readymade garments are not covered under the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011.
· In the interest of consumers, advisory was issued to the Controllers of Legal Metrology of all States/UTs to enforce provisions related to overcharging and dual MRP. Govt. of Maharashtra issued notices for compliance of provisions of Rules related to overcharging to Vankhade Stadium, Mumbai, after which they have asked their vendors to comply with the provisions of Rules.
· To safeguard the interest of consumers, advisory has been issued to all State Governments to ensure all declarations including MRP on all medical devices.
· Advisory in the interest of consumers was also issued to all State Governments to ensure the correct quantity of petrol/ diesel and LPG Cylinders.
BUREAU OF INDIAN STANDARDS (BIS) ACT 2016
A new Bureau of Indian standards (BIS) Act 2016 which was notified on 22nd March, 2016, has been brought into force with effect from 12th October, 2017. The Act establishes the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) as the National Standards Body of India. It has enabling provisions for the Government to bring under compulsory certification regime any goods or article of any scheduled industry, process, system or service which it considers necessary in the public interest or for the protection of human, animal or plant health, safety of the environment, or prevention of unfair trade practices, or national security. Enabling provisions have also been made for making hallmarking of the precious metal articles mandatory. The new Act also allows multiple type of simplified conformity assessment schemes including self-declaration of conformity against a standard which will give simplified options to manufacturers to adhere to the standards and get certificate of conformity. The Act enables the Central Government to appoint any authority/agency, in addition to the BIS, to verify the conformity of products and services to a standard and issue certificate of conformity. Further, there is provision for repair or recall, including product liability of the products bearing Standard Mark but not conforming to the relevant Indian Standard. The new Act will further help in ease of doing business in the country, give fillip to Make In India campaign and ensure availability of quality products and services to the consumers. Bureau of Indian Standards Rules, 2017 were also notified on 13th October, 2017.
CONSUMER PROTECTION UNIT
1. An international conference on consumer protection was held on 26-27 October, 2017 in New Delhi in association with UNCTAD having participation from countries in the East, South and South-East Asia with the theme “Empowering Consumers in New Markets”. Around 1800 delegates including around 60 foreign delegates participated in the conference. The main issues discussed were United Nations Guidelines for Consumer Protection and their Implementation; Stakeholder Participation in Consumer Protection; Protection of Online Consumers; Fostering Consumer Inclusion in Financial Services; Consumer Education and Empowerment; and Special Challenges in Protecting Vulnerable and Economically Disadvantaged Consumers. The Conference inter-alia drew conclusions such as – comprehensive implementation of the United Nations Guidelines for Consumer Protection as a priority for Governments and stakeholders in ensuring more effective and better-coordinated protection efforts in all countries and across all areas of commerce; Protection of consumers’ rights in the digital context as a key for a sustainable and inclusive development of e-commerce, which also needs to address cross-border cooperation and enforcement etc.
2. The Union Government has approved on 20.12.2017 the introduction of new Consumer Protection Bill, 2017 in Parliament to further protect the interest of consumer by:
i) Strengthening the existing Act,
ii) Faster redressal of Consumer Grievances,
iii) Empowering Consumers, and
iv) Modernizing legislation to keep pace with ongoing change in market.