Year-End- Review of Department of Consumer Affairs– 2022
New Delhi, Dec 20, 2022: From Strengthening Price Monitoring Mechanism to tightening noose over violators of Consumer Protection Act, the Department of Consumer Affairs under Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution made concerted efforts round the year to bring relief and provide protection to the Consumers.
Some of the key initiatives and achievements of the Department in the year 2022 are:
Scheme for strengthening of Price Monitoring Mechanism
Price Monitor Cell monitors wholesale and retail prices twenty two essential commodities (Rice, Wheat, Atta, Gram Dal, Tur (Arhar) Dal, Urad Dal , Moong Dal, Masur Dal, Sugar, Gur, Groundnut Oil, Mustard Oil, Vanaspati, Sunflower Oil, Soya Oil, Palm Oil, Tea, Milk, Potato, Onion, Tomato and Salt) based on data collected from 179 market centres spread across the country representing North, West, East, South and North-eastern regions of the country. These prices are collected through the mobile app. Further, following achievements have been attained;
During the year 57 price reporting centers were added. Number of price reporting centers increased from 122 on 01/01/2021 to 179 till date
Operational Guidelines of the scheme for Strengthening of Price Monitoring Cell were issued on 19/08/2021
During the year, Rs. 1,47,01,908/- has been provided to States/UTs for strengthening the price monitoring mechanism.
Mobile App for reporting operationalised w.e.f 1st January, 2021. All price collection centres migrated to daily price reporting through Mobile App.
Predictive price forecasting model developed.
Price Stabilization Fund
Prices of some of the horticulture commodities especially onion, potato and pulses are highly volatile. At the harvest time and soon thereafter, a steep fall in the wholesale and retail prices is normally observed. With depletion of the stored stocks, the prices tend to increase. This phenomenon is more apparent in the case of onions, potatoes and pulses. Price volatility affects consumers in a big way.
Abnormal increase in price of these commodities affect the consumers by way of increase in food consumption budget. Wide price fluctuations also lead to speculation which further impact prices in retail market. 1.2 To mitigate hardships to consumers, a new central sector scheme for providing working capital and other incidental expenses for procurement and distribution of agri-horticultural commodities has been approved. For this purpose, a corpus – “Price Stabilisation Fund” is being created. The following has been achieved during 2020-21:
During the period 12.83 LMT of pulses has been Transferred from PSS, DACFW to PSF, DoCA /Procured/Import under PSF.
During the period 4.94 LMT of pulses has been disposed from PSF buffer.
Onion buffer of 2.08 LMT built for market intervention. Onion from the buffer has been released in a targeted and calibarated manner to cool down prices. Onion also offered to States/UTs @ Rs.21/kg ex-storage location for distribution to consumer in their States.
Release of funds to States/UTs as reimbursement for intra-States transportation and fair price dealer’s margin for distribution of pulses under PMGKAY and ANB
During the year Rs. 35.59 crore released to States/UTs as reimbursement for expenditure on intra-State movement & handling, fair price shop dealer’s margin and Additional Margin Distribution through PoS Device for distribution of pulses under PMGKAY and ANB scheme
Department of Consumer Affairs (DoCA) implements policies for the benefit of consumers and public at large, strengthening consumer protection and awareness in the process. DoCA has undertaken various initiatives towards this objective driving the consumer rights and information activity.
Creating awareness among consumers about these initiatives, especially in rural and backward areas is necessary so that consumers may take benefit from these initiatives and are better informed about their choices.
Recognizing the importance of promoting consumer awareness, Department of Consumer Affairs (DoCA) has been conducting country-wide multimedia awareness campaigns titled “Jago Grahak Jago”. Through simple messages, consumers are made aware of fraudulent practices and problems and the mechanism to seek redressal.
The new mascot of the Department “Jagriti” was launched this year to strengthen the campaign and reinforce top-of-mind awareness which connects well with all the consumers. The Department has been using the “Jagriti” mascot along with “Jago Grahak Jago” tagline in all its media campaigns for re-enforcement of brand and synergies with consumer awareness tagline.
A media campaign for publicizing National Consumer Helpline is being run through laptop branding and weather report / news report captions on DD Kisan. Scroll messages are being run on DD News and regional channels of Doordarshan for educating consumers about features of Consumer Protection Act, 2019, MRP, expiry date, National Consumer Helpline (NCH) etc. Video spots for consumer awareness have been telecasted on various programmes on Doordarshan like Swaraj and Journey of India.
Ad Libs (live messages by RJs) were run through All India Radio (AIR) to generate consumer awareness on various topics. Audio spots on various topics of consumer awareness are being broadcasted on National and regional news on AIR.
Due to increased digitalization, social media, is a strong influence and helps in sensitizing the individual or society. Regular posts in the form of creatives and audio / visual on Consumer Protection Act, 2019 and other initiatives of the Department are being uploaded on the Department’s social media handles
https://www.instagram.com/consumeraffairs_goi/ , Koo and Public App platforms to educate and empower consumers. These tweets are helpful to consumers in obtaining relevant information including redressal mechanism.
The Department participates in various fairs/festivals/events to generate awareness amongst the consumers who congregate at those events/fairs/festivals specially people living in backward areas of the country. The Department has participated in India International Trade Fair (IITF) 2022 in New Delhi by publicizing on tickets and hoardings during the fair duration.
Considering the fact that active involvement of State Governments in awareness campaign is crucial in taking forward the movement to rural, remote and backward areas, State / UT Governments have been actively associated in expanding the area of consumer awareness.
BUREAU OF INDIAN STANDARDS (BIS)
BIS Act 2016 came into force with effect from 12 October 2017, subsequently Governing Council was reconstituted and its fourth meeting was held on 24 August 2022 at BIS HQ New Delhi.
The mandate of BIS is to formulate standards that promote quality of goods and services. The Bureau provides technical support to industries and services sector by way of updated standards, developing new standards in emerging areas, and providing certification of goods and services for ensuring quality and safety. The performance of BIS in its principal activities are indicated below:
During April 2022 – 25 November 2022, 1217 standards (509 new and 708 revised) were formulated and 3426 Standards were reviewed. The total number of standards in force, as on 25 November 2022 is 21833. 7771 Indian Standards have been harmonized with ISO/IEC standards. A total of 38 Indian Standards have been published under Services Sector Division Council
As of 25 November 2022, BIS is a member of the ISO Council (the apex governance body of ISO) ISO Council Standing Committee on strategy and policy (CSC SP) Technical Management Board (TMB) (highest body for technical matter in ISO).
BIS (India) is also a member of IEC Standardization Management Board (SMB) (the highest body for technical matters in IEC), IEC Market Strategy Board (MSB) (the body responsible for the identification and investigation of principal technological trends and market needs) for the term March 2022 – March 2025 and IEC Business Advisory Committee (BAC) (the committee coordinates financial planning and commercial policies).
BIS is Participating (P) member in the three Policy Development Committees of ISO (CASCO, COPOLCO and DEVCO), 495 Technical Committees/Subcommittees of ISO and 106 Technical Committees/Subcommittees of IEC, and an O-member in 185 Technical Committees/Subcommittees of ISO and 66 Technical Committees/Subcommittees of IEC
BIS (India) has successfully contested the IEC Vice President and Chair of Standardization Management Board (SMB) for the 2023-2025 term.
Presently, BIS has 32 Memorandum of Understanding (MoUs) and 09 Bilateral Cooperation Agreements (BCAs) signed with National Standards Bodies and other standards development organizations of other countries. During this period, a BCA between India Taipei Association (ITA) and Taipei Economic Cultural Center in India (TECCI), representing BIS and BSMI respectively was signed.
BIS (India) is holding chairship of the South Asian Regional Standards Organization (SARSO) Technical Management Board for a three-year term from Oct 2020 to Oct 2023 and Board of Conformity Assessment (BCA).
Product Certification: BIS operates a Product Certification Scheme under the Bureau of Indian Standards Act, 2016 and the Rules, Regulations framed thereunder. The product certification scheme is primarily voluntary in nature. However, for 379 products the Central Government has made it mandatory to obtain BIS certification on various considerations. During 01 April 2022 to 25 November 2022, 3274 new licences were granted, which include 51 products covered for the first time under the scheme. The total number of products covered under product certification scheme is 1156.The total number of operative licences, held by domestic manufacturers as on date, is 40,227.
Foreign Manufacturer’s Certification Scheme (FMCS): The total number of operative licenses are 1107 against 146 different standards from 57 countries. Total 133 licenses have been granted since 01 April 2022.
Compulsory Registration Scheme (CRS): A total of 3509 licenses were granted and 6329 requests for inclusion were approved under CRS during the period 01 Apr 2022 to 25 Nov 2022. These applications comprised both Indian and foreign manufacturers.
During the period from 1st April, 2022 to 25th November, 2022 number of hallmarking registration has grown from 1,37,315 to 1,48,858 while the number of BIS recognized Assaying and Hallmarking centres have increased from 1079 to 1349. 20 Off-Site Centres were also recognized during the period. During the same period, 7.67 crore articles of gold and silver jewellery/artefacts have been hallmarked.
Amendment to Quality control order for mandatory hallmarking of gold jewellery/artefacts has been issued on 04 April 2022 by the Govt. of India which has increased the number of districts covered under mandatory hallmarking from 256 districts of the country to 288 districts where there is at least one Assaying and Hallmarking Centre since 01 June 2022.
In view of the implementation of Mandatory Hallmarking Order, a new online system for the automation of the assaying & hallmarking activities at AHCs was made functional with the new Hallmark consisting of six digit HUID (Hallmarking Unique ID) since 01 July 2021. Since the launch of HUID based system for hallmarking, 15.58 crore articles of gold jewellery/artefacts have been hallmarked as on 25 November 2022.
Hallmarking of gold Bullion in the fineness of 999 & 995 as per IS 1417:2016 was started in October 2015. Under this scheme, so far, 44 licences have been granted to refineries/ India Government Mint for Gold bullion and coin as on 25 November, 2022.
Govt. of India has launched Gold Monetization Scheme on 05 November 2015. So far, 48 A&H centres and one Jeweller have been qualified to act as Collection and Purity Testing Centres (CPTC).
Under the Plan Scheme for Hallmarking, during this period, in capacity building, Number of programmes which were organized for training of artisans, for Training of Assaying & Hallmarking personal and for training of BIS officers were six, two and two respectively.
MANAGEMENT SYSYTEMS CERTIFICATION
BIS operates 20 Management Systems Certification Schemes in accordance with ISO/IEC 17021-1:2015 ISO/IEC 17021 Conformity assessment – Requirements for bodies providing audit and certification of management systems. – Requirements.
The Quality Management Systems Certification Scheme, the Environmental Management Systems Certification Scheme and Food Safety Management Systems Certification Scheme have been accredited by National Accreditation Board for Certification Bodies (NABCB) against the standard ISO/IEC 17021.
In 2021-22, two more schemes i.e. Occupational Health & Safety Management System and Energy Management System have been accredited by NABCB.
As on 25 November 2022, a total of 1240 operative licences exist under the Management systems certification schemes.
One of the main pillars of conformity assessment is product testing to ascertain the conformity of products to relevant standards. BIS has established eight laboratories in the country to cater to the testing need of samples generated from conformity assessment schemes, beginning with the establishment of Central Laboratory at Sahibabad in 1962. Subsequently, four regional laboratories at Mohali, Kolkata, Mumbai and Chennai and three branch office laboratories at Patna, Bangalore and Guwahati were established. BIS laboratories have facilities for testing of products in the field of chemical, microbiological, electrical and mechanical requirements. In addition to product testing, BIS has established gold assaying lab at Chennai, Sahibabad, Kolkata, Mumbai, Bangalore, Patna and Jammu Branch Office. Gold assaying lab at Chennai is a referral lab and also tests silver jewellery.
In order to ensure that BIS laboratory services keep pace with developments at the international level, the laboratories at Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Mohali, Patna, Bengaluru and Guwahati have been accredited by the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL) as per ISO/IEC 17025. BIS also operates Laboratory Recognition Scheme (LRS) for recognition of outside laboratories. The scheme is based on ISO/IEC 17025, which is in line with the norms adopted by the NABL.
There are 293 BIS recognized labs, which include reputed R&D organizations, technical institutions, Government labs and labs in private sector. The services of such laboratories are utilized where it is economically not viable to develop test facilities in BIS laboratories.
Test facilities developed:
New Complete Testing Facility created for 76 no. ISS.
Partial Test Facility Created for 118 no. of ISS
04 new Referral Assay Laboratories established at WRL, BNBL, PBL and JKBO.
Development of Laboratory Information Management Software (LIMS)
The LIMS (Laboratory Information Management System) is a comprehensive Online System developed for managing workings of the BIS Laboratories and BIS recognized OSL (outside laboratories) via integrated and centralized workflow management system. All BIS Own Laboratories and recognized OSL are now working through LIMS.
LIMS is also integrated with Manak Online and various other BIS systems allowing BIS Branch Offices to send Test Requests to respective laboratory and monitor the Sample Testing Status, Test Reports, Invoices online and in real time.
Uniform test report formats have been devised in LIMS for all products under certification for all BIS Laboratories and BIS recognized outside laboratories.
The LIMS is integrated with an Android and iOS based mobile app for onsite auditing and reporting process for BIS Recognition. This app comes packed with sophisticated Geofencing and other security features which will help authenticate the Auditors and allow communication with the auditee laboratory online.
Real time and Online monitoring for all samples drawn for BIS conformity assessment purposes. 217374 Samples have been received through LIMS and 159626 test reports have been issued through LIMS till date.
Mapping of Testing Facilities
District wise mapping of the Industries and the NABL accredited laboratories located in the respective districts was provided to all the Branch offices of BIS and the Branch Offices were asked to provide the industry units available in the respective districts for further mapping of the industrial units against the laboratories.
Meeting on Review of Parakh Portal on April 25, 2022 was held with DPIIT regarding integration of API from NABL and BIS with Parakh portal for automatic updation of BIS Laboratories data in Parakh portal.
Laboratory Recognition Scheme Activities.
Fees structure of LRS has been revised and recognition fees has been reduced from Rs.1, 00,000.00 to Rs.60, 000.00 for MSME and Women Entrepreneur. Inclusion application and processing fees has been done away with in order to encourage laboratory to get more and more Indian Standards/products included in the scope of recognition.
Interactive sessions with schools, colleges and industries have been organized by BIS Labs. The interaction covered the broad discussion/presentation on a particular subject or field covering the testing requirements for that product/product group. It has also covered general visit of the lab/section.
Skill development for Quality Control personnel
03 Certificate Course for hallmarking professionals and 15 Certificate Course for product certification conducted in various BIS labs throughout the year.
RESEARCH & TRAINING SERVICES
Action Research Projects are undertaken by the officers in different activities of BIS. In addition, Indian Standards were allocated to the officers for initiating review through Action Research mode, for suggesting revision/amendment/reaffirmation or withdrawal with objective evidence. So far, a total of 2259 Action Research Projects have been allotted to BIS Officers and the progress of these projects is diligently monitored and reviewed at the level of Heads, DDGs, and DG. The recommendations by the officers in these ARPs are forwarded to concerned Sectional Committee for their consideration.
Bureau of Indian Standards has instituted a certificate course on assaying and hallmarking, which has been accredited by National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) to bridge the competence gap of personnel involved in assaying and hallmarking giving impetus to Skill India initiative of GoI and mandatory hallmarking of gold. Central Laboratory (CL), Southern Regional Laboratory (SROL) and Eastern Regional Laboratory (EROL) of BIS are accredited as the training centers for the course and so far 137 candidates have successfully completed this course. The latest batch of the Certificate Course concluded on 19 July 2022 at SROL AND CL and 20th July in EROL.
In pursuance of the Training Policy of BIS, IIM Ahmedabad was engaged to impart residential leadership development training for employees at the level of ‘Head’ and above to help them discharge their supervisory role in an efficient and productive manner. 40 BIS officers have undergone the training from 26th to 30th September 2022.
Exposure visit cum Training of Scientific Cadre Officers of BIS (19 nos.) to CEN-CENELEC & AFNOR was organized from 27 June 2022 to 6 July 2022, to study their good practices in the field of Standardization, Conformity Assessment and Laboratory Testing System for suitable utilization for strengthening these activities of BIS.
Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) occupies a pivotal position in the quality ecosystem and has a treasure trove of experiences in the area. Case Studies and Success Stories can serve as invaluable assets in experience sharing establishing benefits of the various measures taken by the Bureau for the improvement of the quality ecosystem. With this background in mind, BIS organized two training programmes on case studies at NITS with faculty from IIM (Lucknow) and 11 case studies were prepared. A booklet on these Case Studies has been prepared and has been uploaded in BIS website under Audio- Visual Resources.
In pursuance with the Internship Scheme of BIS approved in the 148th meeting of the Executive Committee (EC) of BIS held on Friday, 26 March 2021, Forty-seven students have been engaged as Interns in BIS in Sustainability Project and one student in the Project to study role of standardization in the area of technological regulation like Data Protection Bill, Information Security etc.
Under the e-ITec initiative of Ministry of External Affairs, Govt. of India, two Online International Training Programmes namely International Training Programme on “Management Systems” and International Training Programme on “Laboratory Quality Management System and Internal Audit as per IS/ISO/IEC 17025:2017” were conducted during March 2021 and attended by 83 delegates.
Number of Training Programmes Organized
During the period, National Institute of Training for Standardization (NITS) organized 152 programmes for industry, BIS Officials and Technical Committee Members. Total No. of Participants trained during the period were 4036.
Capsule Courses for SMEs
Lack of technical expertise of the Quality Control Personnel has been pointed out as one of the constraints faced by the Industry while obtaining/operating BIS licences. This gap is increasing with many new products coming under mandatory BIS certification. In order to bridge this gap, BIS is conducting short term Capsule Courses (2-days) for Quality control personnel through NITS and its Branch Offices across India. These Capsule Course are being organized free of Cost for participants. 165 Capsule Courses are expected to be conducted in the year 2022-23. So far, 90 Capsule Courses have already been conducted. About 1500 persons have been trained in these programmes.
Certificate Courses for Assaying and Hallmarking
Bureau of Indian Standards has instituted a certificate course on assaying and hallmarking, which has been accredited by National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC). The course is expected to bridge the competence gap of personnel involved in assaying and hallmarking giving impetus to Skill India initiative of GoI and mandatory hallmarking of gold. Central Laboratory, Southern Regional Laboratory and Eastern Regional Laboratory of BIS are accredited as the training centres for the course. So far, 139 candidates have successfully completed this course.
NITS had also conducted a Certificate Course for Quality Control Personnel in Mechanical Testing at Central Laboratory Sahibabad during 05 April-29 Jul 2021
INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY SERVICES
The Standards portal was enhanced to add new features like “Review of Standards” providing an interface to all stakeholders of BIS to participate in the process of reviewing and updating Indian Standards.
The new look BIS website (www.bis.gov.in) with a modern, dynamic and user friendly design has been launched. It emphasizes on Sustainable Development, Manak Manthan, BIS Care App, Product Specific Capsule courses on quality control, Standards club in Educational institutions, Standards in the emerging areas, Internship with BIS, Know your Standard, Partnership with technical and professional institutions, Deepening stakeholder engagement, Creating quality compliance culture, All India first licences, etc.
The BIS CARE App has been made available for iPhone/iPad users also.
An Agency has been brought on-board for development of an online Exchange Forum for BIS. The forum will facilitate online activities like Quiz and Competitions. Lectures, Workshops, News and Events, Discussion, Exchange of Ideas etc. for Standard Club members and Mentors and Technical Experts/Committee Members.
AHC Automation Software automates the workflow of Assaying and Hallmarking Centre & facilitates jewelers to get their articles hallmarked & enables the progress of work done for the hallmarking requests. The generation of HUID is done using indigenous randomized algorithm using the software. Advanced Hallmarking Dashboard & HUID tracker have been deployed which would facilitate BIS officials to monitor the hallmarking activities, get an insight of the statistics and key quantifiable attributes & plan the market surveillance activities accordingly. The software module has been further upgraded to facilitate mobile based market surveillance along with Integration to Referral and Assay Laboratories.
The conformity assessment portal enables domestic manufacturers to apply for grant of licence for use of Standard Mark (ISI) on their products, renewal of such licenses, inclusion in the scope of variety with payment of fees and submission of payment through simplified online means. BIS can process these requests and communicate their decision online, and facilitate real time tracking of the applications by our stakeholders. The portal has been further enhanced for digitized Lot Inspection, Mobile app based Surveillance modules, advanced dashboard and reports etc.
Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) and Mobile-App based Surveillance Module have been operation in BIS. Entire work-flow of BIS laboratories and around 500 Private and government laboratories recognised/ empaneled by BIS right from the dispatch of product samples to them to the dispatch of test reports by them have been automated with the implementation of LIMS.
A module has been put in place to capture and maintain data of Standards Clubs. Details like Institute Details, Mentor Details and its training status, Member details, activities, etc. are being captured and maintained through an online module.
A training portal has been developed by BIS to cater to the emerging training needs of various stakeholders. Portal has been integrated with GST portal to generate invoices in real time.
CONSUMER AFFAIRS & PUBLIC RELATIONS
315 Standard Promotion programmes were organized by Regional Offices / Branch offices throughout the country during April to November 2022 for Consumers.
325 Standard Promotion Activities with Industry activities, including for awareness programs for Jeweller/Artisans were conducted during April to November 2022.
BIS organized 1212 activities for students and faculty of colleges and technical institutes during April to November 2022.
During April to November 2022, BIS conducted 328 Standard Promotion activities with Government as the primary stakeholder.
State Level Committees on Standardisation have been constituted in 26 States with a view to promoting the use of Indian Standards as a means to creating a robust Quality Ecosystem in the country and protecting the interest of the consumers by ensuring active involvement of the States/UTs in the formulation and use of standards.
3852 standards clubs have been created throughout the country until 25th November 2022.
During the year, 1000 complaints related to quality of BIS certified products, unauthorized use of BIS Standard Mark, violation of Quality Control Orders etc. were received. Out of these 1000 complaints, 385 were redressed and closed for actions. As on 25.11.2022, 315 complaints of these categories are under investigation at different stages under different Regional and Branch Offices of the Bureau. In addition, BIS had also redressed 127 out of 135 grievances received through CPGRAMS portal during the year.
BIS conducts enforcement activity to curb unauthorized use of BIS Standard Mark by unscrupulous manufacturers and to prevent violation of Quality Control Orders. During the year, BIS carried out 109 Search & Seizure operations at the premises of manufacturers violating Quality Control Orders and misusing BIS Standard Marks and seized material under contravention of BIS Act, 2016.
To publicize ISI mark and Hallmark amongst common consumers, a number of publicity activities are undertaken by BIS HQ, Regional Offices and Branch Offices through Print, Electronic, Outdoor and Digital media.
World Consumer Rights Day
The World Consumer Rights Day was celebrated on 15.03.2022 at Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi. The theme of the event was “Fair Digital Finance”. Shri Piyush Goyal, Hon’ble Union Minister of Commerce and Industry, Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution and Textile presided the event. Shri Ashwini Kumar Choubey, Hon’ble Minister of State in the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution and the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change; Ms Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti, Hon’ble Minister of State in the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution and the Ministry of Rural Development; Justice R. K. Agarwal, President of the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission(NCDRC); Shri Nandan Nilekani, Non-Executive Chairman of Infosys, officers of the State and Central Government, presidents and members of the State Commissions, Voluntary Consumer Organizations (VCOs) and other stakeholders attended the event.
National Workshop of Consumer Commissions
The Department of Consumer Affairs held a National Workshop on 20.06.2022 with participation from President and Members of National Commission, President and Members of State Commissions and Presidents of selected District Commissions along with Principal Secretaries and Government officers of the State/UT. The objective of the Workshop was to discuss and deliberate vision for effective, speedier and hassle free consumer dispute redressal mechanism through 4 technical sessions on:
The present Status of vacancies & pending cases in the State and District Commissions and prescribing a framework for effective and speedier redressal consumer grievances.
The present Status of e-filing in State and District Commissions and suggestions for making e-filing preferred option for the consumers for grievance redressal.
The present Status of Mediation in State and District Commissions and suggestions for putting in place an effective mechanism for mediation as prescribed in Consumer Protection Act 2019.
The present Status of Infrastructure in State and District Commissions and suggestions for improving the same.
Settlement of cases through National Lok Adalat
Considering the benefit of speedy disposal of matters through settlement the Department of Consumer Affairs refers the consumer cases to be disposed of through the Lok Adalat system. National Legal Service Authority (NALSA) along with other Legal Service institutions conducts Lok Adalats. It is one of the alternate dispute redressal mechanisms. National Lok Adalats are held at regular intervals where, on a single day, Lok Adalats are held throughout the country. The last National Lok Adalat was held on 12th November 2022. Department of Consumer Affairs wrote to all State/UT Govts. for referring pending consumer cases to be taken up through National Lok Adalat. State and District commissions are been continuously encouraged to participate in these Lok Adalats. As a result, 5930 cases were settled on a single day on 12th December, 2022 through Lok Adalat across the Country.
The following Rules/Regulations/Guidelines under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 have been notified during 2022:
Guidelines for Prevention of Misleading Advertisements and Endorsements for Misleading Advertisements, 2022
National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (Group ‘C’ posts) Recruitment Rules, 2022.
Guidelines for Prevention of Misleading Advertisements and Endorsements for Misleading Advertisements, 2022
The CCPA has notified the Guidelines for Prevention of Misleading Advertisements and Endorsements for Misleading Advertisements, 2022 on 9th June, 2022. These guidelines provide for; conditions for an advertisement to be non-misleading and valid; certain stipulations in respect of bait advertisements, free claim advertisements and Children targeted advertisements; and, prohibition of surrogate advertisements.
Keeping in view the sensitiveness and vulnerability of children and severe impact advertisements make on the younger minds, several preemptive provisions have been laid down on advertisements targeting children. Guidelines forbid advertisements from exaggerating the features of product or service in such manner as to lead children to have unrealistic expectations of such product or service and claim any health or nutritional claims or benefits without being adequately and scientifically substantiated by a recognized body.
Disclaimers in advertisements play a pivotal role from consumer perspective since, in a way it limits the responsibility of the company. Therefore, guidelines stipulates that disclaimer shall not attempt to hide material information with respect to any claim made in such advertisement, the omission or absence of which is likely to make the advertisement deceptive or conceal its commercial intent and shall not attempt to correct a misleading claim made in an advertisement. Further, it provides that, a disclaimer shall be in the same language as the claim made in the advertisement and the font used in a disclaimer shall be the same as that used in the claim.
Similarly, clear Guidelines are laid for duties of manufacturer, service provider, advertiser and advertising agency, due diligence to be carried out before endorsing and others. Guidelines aims to protect consumer’s interest through bringing in more transparency and clarity in the way advertisements are being published, so that, consumers are able to make informed decisions based on facts rather than false narratives and exaggerations.
Penalty for violating the Guidelines are also clearly outlined. CCPA can impose penalty of upto 10 lakh rupees on manufacturers, advertisers and endorsers for any misleading advertisements. For subsequent contraventions, CCPA may impose a penalty of upto 50 lakh rupees. The Authority can prohibit the endorser of a misleading advertisement from making any endorsement for upto 1 year and for subsequent contravention, prohibition can extend upto 3 years.
Under the provisions of Consumer Protection Act, 2019, a Consumer Commission online application portal named “edaakhil.nic.in” has been developed to facilitate the consumers/advocates to file the consumer complaint online through the e-Daakhil portal from home or anywhere at their own comfort. This E-daakhil portal also provides facility to pay the complaint fees online as well as having option to pay the fees offline with uploading the proof of payment of fee. Appeals can now also be filed on E-Dakhil.
As of now, the e-Daakhil portal can be accessed in NCDRC and in 34 States/UTs except Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh.
Under the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019, each Consumer Commission (District, State and National) shall have a Mediation Cell. Consumer cases, where an element of settlement exists among concerned parties, may be referrd to these Mediation Cells with consent of the parties for adjudication. It therefore acts as an alternate dispute redressal mechanism. At present, there are approx. 335 Mediation Cells in the Country.
Vacancy filling in Consumer Commissions
Vacancies in the Consumer Commissions is one of the key reasons for pendency of consumer cases. Department of Consumer Affairs is continuosly taking up the matter witih States/UTs Govts. for filling up the vacant posts in Consumer Commissions. Department of Consumer Affairs has also urged States/UTs Govts. to resort to the rule 6 of the Consumer Protection (Salary, allowances and conditions of service of President and Members of the State and District Commission) Model Rules, 2020. Rule 6 of the aforementioned rules state that the State Government has the power to appoint the senior most Member to officiate as President in case a casual vacancy is created in the office of the President in the State Commission or District Commission, as the case may be. THei ntention is that proceedings of the consumer commission should not affect due to vacancies in the consumer commissions.
As a result of constant effort of the Central Govt., vacancies in the state and district commission have come down considerably during the last one year as can be seen from the following table:
|Vacancies in September 2021||Vacancies in November 2022|
|National Commission||0( sanctioned strength 1)||3(sanctioned strength)||0||1|
|State Commissions||12( sanctioned strength 36)||81( sanctioned strength 145)||8(sanctioned strength of 36)||34( sanctioned strength 160)|
|District Commissions||246( sanctioned strength 603)||631( sanctioned strength 1292)||83( sanctioned strength 612)||251Sanctioned strength 1324)|
Over the last few years, there has been a steady rise in e-commerce transactions across the country. Reviews posted online play a significant role in making purchase decisions and consumers exceedingly rely on reviews posted on e-commerce platforms to see the opinion and experience of users who have already purchased the good or service. Given that e-commerce involves a virtual shopping experience without any opportunity to physically view or examine the product, it is essential that reviews are genuine, authentic and trustworthy.
Taking cognizance of the impact of fake and deceptive reviews and protection of consumer interest in e-commerce, the Department of Consumer Affairs launched the framework for safeguarding and protecting consumer interest from fake and deceptive reviews in e-commerce.
Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) launched the framework titled Indian Standard (IS) 19000:2022 ‘Online Consumer Reviews — Principles and Requirements for their Collection, Moderation and Publication. The standards will be applicable to every online platform which publishes consumer reviews.
The standard will initially be voluntary for compliance by all e-commerce platform. The guiding principles of the standard are integrity, accuracy, privacy, security, transparency, accessibility and responsiveness. The standard prescribes specific responsibilities for the review author and the review administrator. For review author, these include confirming acceptance of terms and conditions, providing contact information and for review administrator, these include safeguarding personal information and training of staff.
The standard provides for responsibilities of organization including developing a code of practice, and necessary stipulations for terms and conditions like accessibility, criteria, and ensuring content does not contain financial information etc.
The standard also provides for methods for verification of review author through email address, identification by telephone call or SMS, confirming registration by clicking on a link, using captcha system etc. to check traceability and genuineness of the review author.
With respect to moderation, the standard provides for both automated and manual moderation and provides checks for analyzing the review content. As regards to publication, the standard includes considerations for the review administrator at the time of publication process and after the publication process. The accuracy of the review, default display and weightage of ratings are defined in the publication process.
Uniform Charging Port
Department of Consumer Affairs is advocating for uniform charging port in the interest of consumer welfare and prevention of avoidable e-waste. In this regard, a Central Inter-Ministerial Task Force has been constituted to examine the issue of uniformity in charging ports of electronic devices. The Department has also decided to form a sub-group to examine the feasibility of uniform charging port for wearables. The sub-group will include representatives from industry bodies, educational institutions etc.
The uniformity in charging port is a step towards LiFE (Lifestyle for Environment) mission launched by Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi at COP-26 which calls for ‘mindful and deliberate utilization’ by people worldwide instead of ‘mindful and wasteful consumption’. The LiFE mission plans to create and nurture a global network of individuals, namely ‘Pro-Planet People’ (P3), who will have a shared commitment to adopt and promote environmentally friendly lifestyles.
Online Portal for services provided by Legal Metrology
Department of Consumer Affairs has made a portal www.lm.doca.gov.in wherein the applications for the following are submitted i) Nomination of Director, ii) Registration of import of weighting and measuring instrument under section 19 of Act
The following two services provided by Legal Metrology are on the portal www.nsws.gov.in
i) Model Approval and ii) Registration of Packers and Importers
This portal is helpful to manufactures, importers, packers of weights and measures along with the any consumers. This has makes work very fast and reduce the work approximately one month.
Manufactures, packers and importers are able to apply for their work online on the portal and certificate are also being issued within certain fix time and uploaded on website.
This has caused the reduction in the compliance burden.
Furthermore, following amendments were made under the Rules for ease of doing business:
The Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011 were amended (on 14.7.2022) to allow the electronic products industries to declare certain mandatory declarations in the digital form through the QR Code for a period of one year, if not declared in the package itself. This permission is to enable greater use of technology in this digital era to declare the mandatory declaration through the QR Code which can be scanned to view the declarations. The important declarations to be declared effectively on the label in the package while the other descriptive information can be conveyed to the Consumer through the QR Code.
The Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011 were amended on 22.8.2022 exempting the garment or hosiery industry, selling these items in loose or open, from declaring common/ generic name of the commodity, net quantity, unit sale price, month and year of manufacture and consumer care name & address. This would reduce the compliance burden of garment/ hosiery industry and promote ease of doing business in this sector.
However, to protect the interest of consumers they shall continue to display name and address of the manufacturer/ marketer/ brand owner/ importer with country of origin, consumer care email id and phone number, sizes with internationally recognizable size indicators and maximum retail price (MRP). These amendments shall come into effect from w.e.f. 1st January, 2023.
Section 49 of the Legal Metrology Act, 2009 allows the companies to nominate any of its Directors as a person responsible for the business of the Company. There was request from various industries to allow nominating the person who is actually having the authority and responsibility of the establishment or branch. To reduce the compliance burden, the Legal Metrology (General) Rules, 2011 have been amended allowing the companies having different establishments or branches or different units in any establishment or branch to nominate an officer who has the authority and responsibility for planning, directing and controlling the activities of the establishments or branches or different units.
Compliance of provision of country of origin for all goods including e-commerce platforms
In the interest of consumers all the importers are required to declare country of origin for imported products including e-commerce entities. Various notices have been issued to many e-commerce entities for not complying the provisions of rules of declaring mandatory information on digital platforms. The cases against the violators who have not compounded the offence are being filed in the court of law.
Grand Challenge for development of “Technologies for Primary Processing, Storage and Valorization of Onions”
To address the wastage of Onions due to improper storage which accounts for huge monetary loss, Department of Consumer Affairs, in July 2022, launched a Grand Challenge for development of “Technologies for Primary Processing, Storage and Valorization of Onions”.
Through this challenge, efficient and cost effective solutions for reducing the wastage of onions were invited from Students (UG/PG/Diploma), Research Scholars, Faculty members, Tech start-ups, MSMEs, LLPs, Professionals and other individuals having interest in this area. All the Agriculture Universities and Central Universities were informed about the challenge with request to disseminate the challenge for ensuring maximum participation. MyGov was also requested to publicise the challenge.
A portal was developed for registration of the interested participants. There were four verticals of challenge viz. Improvements in the designs of storage structures, Pre-harvesting stage, Primary Processing, Valorization: Value addition and utilisation of onion waste.
The challenge was rolled out in three stages. There is evaluation of ideas, technology solutions at three stages (Ideation to Proof of Concept stage, Proof of Concept to Product stage and Field implementation) of the proposed technical solution and there is attractive prize money for shortlisted participants at each stage. An amount of Rs. 1,95,000,00 has been allocated for the challenge.
For first stage (Ideation to PoC), online proposals were invited from 12 July 2022 to 15 Oct 2022. During this phase, the Department has received 607 ideas for challenge. A National Steering Committee in consultation with Innovation Cell, M/o Education and Knowledge cum Evaluation Partner – DOGR (Directorate of Onion and Garlic Research) is in process to evaluate the received ideas. The Onion Hackathon would throw up novel, innovative solutions for reducing wastage and rotting of post harvested onions. The best 40 ideas would be supported for development of proof of concept immediately.