Picking up from where we left off last week, let’s continue our discussion with the following considerations. Any typical transaction done online would involve the following basic steps: a reasonable display of information about the product or service, an easy but efficient payment system and prompt service delivery. Now, what could possibly go wrong? Please check this out and join us as soon as you are done reading.
If you did read that article I guess we can all agree that some of the setbacks associated with offline transactions also apply to those made through e-channels. Of course, these issues would include undelivered and defective orders, deceptive and misleading product information, delayed orders and so on. But how does the Consumer Protection Council Act stack up to the issues at hand?
I’m tempted to jump right into the Act but first, let’s see what the Consumer Protection Council defines as our rights. Thankfully, the usual suspects are there; the right to satisfaction of basic needs, safety, information, consumer education, consumer representation and healthy environment. Also included are the rights to access quality products and services at competitive prices as well as compensation for misrepresentation, shoddy goods and unsatisfactory services.
Now, let’s highlight relevant provisions of the Act. By section 2(a) the Council shall “provide speedy redress to consumer complaints through negotiations, mediation and conciliations”. Section 2(d) enables the Council to “cause offending company, firm, trade, association or individual to protect, compensate, provide relief and safeguards to injured consumers or communities from the adverse effects of technologies that are inherently harmful, injurious, violent or highly hazardous.”
Let’s do a couple more. Section 2(i) mandates the Council to “ensure that consumers’ interests receive due consideration at appropriate forum and to provide redress to obnoxious practices or the unscrupulous exploitation of consumers by companies, firms, trade association or individuals.” By section 2(g) the Council shall “issue guidelines to manufacturers, importers, dealers and wholesalers in relation to their obligations under this … [act].”
Section 3 confers certain powers on the Council to enable it carry out the functions in section 2. But we don’t want to go the whole length. If you consider the functions we just considered and others which you’d find in the Act, you’d realize that they seem to be tailored for offline transactions. Take section 2(d) as an example, it does not seem to be aware of transactions which tend to go on ‘anonymously’ on the internet. Let me explain this. I see an ad on say OLX by a user called “I_am_a_trader”. He/she/ wants to sell a “new” or “used” phone. There’d typically be some contact details which might be a phone number or an email address. That’s it people! We’ve no geographic address and other important contact details. You can’t even find the ‘person’ in the event of a legal action if there is a breach.
We can keep going on with this analysis but I tell you, the conclusion will still be the same; the Act is not in tune with modern economic realities. But there seem to be a ray of hope coming. What is it? How long shall we wait for it?
Join me again next week for the answers! Have a nice weekend.