As the year 2023 comes to end heralding a new year 2024,a study on the move by the Centre - the Department of Consumer Affairs under the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution-revealed that a number of measures were adopted to keep check rise of essential commodities. 

The move aimed to strengthen price monitoring and sensitising consumers about Consumer Rights.and other  concerted efforts were made round the year- 2023.

If data gathered by JharkhandStateNews are of any indication, some of the key initiatives and achievements of the Department in the year 2023 were:

Efforts towards strengthening 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 550 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;

  1. During the year 140 price reporting centers were added. Number of price reporting centers increased from 410 on 01/01/2023 to 550 till date.
  2. Operational Guidelines of the scheme for Strengthening of Price Monitoring Cell were issued on 19/08/2021
  3. During the year, Rs. 6,23,68,711/-has been provided to States/UTs for strengthening the price monitoring mechanism.
  4. Mobile App for reporting operationalised w.e.f 1st January, 2021. All price collection centres migrated to daily price reporting through Mobile App.
  5. Predictive price forecasting model developed. 

Price Stabilization Fund to check price volatility 

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.

Celebration of World Consumer Rights Day

The World Consumer Rights Day was celebrated on 15.03.2023 at Vanijya Bhawan, New Delhi. The theme of the event was “Empowering Consumers through Clean Energy Transitions”. Shri Piyush Goyal, Union Minister of Commerce and Industry, Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution and Textile presided the event. In addition, the Department organised several conferences across the industry. Along with a Round Table Conference on Consumer and the Insurance Sector in March, the Department also organised day long workshop on "Consumer Protection in the Northern States" in Chandigarh, Round Table Conference on "How to Effectively Redress the Grievances Pertaining to Real Estate Sector" in Mumbai, interactive consultation with stakeholders on "Dark Patterns" in Mumbai, workshop at Vishakhapatnam focused on consumer protection, and others. 

Rules/Regulations/Guidelines notified in 2023

The following Rules/Regulations/Guidelines have been notified under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 during 2023:

  1. National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (Group ‘B’ posts) Recruitment Rules, 2023
  2. National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (Group ‘A’ posts) Recruitment Rules, 2023
  3. National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (Registrar) Recruitment Rules, 2023
  4. National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (Other terms and conditions of service of officers and employees) Rules, 2023
  5. Consumer Protection (Direct Selling) (Amendment) Rules, 2023
  6. Consumer Protection (Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission) (Amendment) Rules, 2023
  7. The Consumer Protection (Qualification for appointment, method of recruitment, procedure of appointment, term of office, resignation and removal of the President and members of the State Commission and District Commission) (Amendment) Rules, 2023
  8. Guidelines for Prevention and Regulation of Dark Patterns, 2023

 

Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) issues guidelines for Prevention and Regulation of Dark Patterns, 2023

The Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) issued Guidelines for Prevention and Regulation of Dark Patterns. CCPA issued Guidelines under Section 18(2)(1) of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 to regulate dark patterns which are deceptive practices similar in the nature of "misleading advertisements" or "unfair trade practice" defined under Section 2(28) and 2(47) respectively of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019. Guidelines specify 13 types of dark patterns including False urgency, Basket Sneaking, Confirm shaming, forced action, Subscription trap, Interface Interference, Bait and switch, Drip Pricing, Disguised Advertisements and Nagging, Trick Wording, Saas Billing and Rogue Malwares. Guidelines are notified with an objective of safeguarding consumer interests and promoting a fair and transparent marketplace, especially in the increasingly expanding and penetrative digital space.

Efforts towards e-Filing

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 35 States/UTs except Ladakh.

 

Disposal of Cases

As a result of various initiatives undertaken by the Department of Consumer Affairs such as various regional workshops, state specific meetings and various sector-specific conferences, from July 2022 onwards, there is a significant positive shift towards the speedy and efficient disposal of cases with a disposal rate of more than 100% in many States and District Commissions. In this context, the Department has been pro-actively taking steps to ensure that the objective of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 i.e the speedy, effective and timely disposal of cases, may be achieved effectively.

Revamp of National Consumer Helpline

The Department has revamped, the National Consumer Helpline (NCH) which has emerged as a single point of access to consumers across the country for grievance redressal at pre-litigation stage. Consumers can register their grievances from all over the country in 17 languages through a toll-free number 1915. These grievances can be registered on Integrated Grievance Redressal Mechanism (INGRAM), an omni channel IT enabled central portal, through various channels- Whats App, SMS , mail , NCH app, web portal, Umang app as per their convenience. 

 

CONFONET

CONFONET application launched in 2007 has been modernized with upgradation in technology, safety and usage. This upgradation and modernization has been done based on the feedback from various stakeholders. The upgraded state of the art new central software application named e-Jagriti will significantly improve the consumer case management process. This new application has integrated the CMS, OCMS, e-daakhil and NCDRC modules at a single platform. 

For the facilitation of consumers and with a mandate to bring justice at their doorsteps, Video Conferencing facilities are being installed in 10 benches of NCDRC and 35 benches of SCDRCs. This new service will help Consumer Commissions to hear cases through hybrid hearing which will help in remote appearances of petitioners, lawyers and organizations and also support faster disposal and hearing of a large number of cases. The order for procuring the VC facilities has been placed and the services will be available in early 2023 to the consumers.

 

Standards Formulation 

During April 2023 – 25 November 20231320 standards (455 new and 865 revised) were formulated and 2118 Standards were reviewed. The total number of standards in force, as on 25 November 2023 is 223208500 Indian Standards have been harmonized with ISO/IEC standards.

New Initiatives in Standards Development: Standards National Action Plan (SNAP) 2022-27

The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) to effectively perform its responsibility as the National Standards Body (NSB) of India evolved the Standards National Action Plan (SNAP) 2022-27 which was formally released by the Union Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Textiles and Commerce & Industry, Shri Piyush Goyal on 06 January 2023.

BIS has undertaken extensive stakeholder consultations to develop this action plan. Due consideration has also been accorded to government policies and priorities. To prioritize the standardization work on the identified subjects/ topics of standards development, an assessment of national socio-economic requirements was made through a process of secondary research against the ISO guidelines available in this regard. A total of 34 Sectors, 138 Fields and 533 Subject Areas have been identified in SNAP 2022-27.

Efforts towards Hallmarking 

During the period from 1st April, 2023 to 25th November, 2023 number of hallmarking registration has grown from 1,60,866 to 1,84,296 while the number of BIS recognized Assaying and Hallmarking centres have increased from 1403 to 1499. 26 Off-Site Centres were also recognized during the period. During the same period, 10.39 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 06 September, 2023 by the Govt. of India which has increased the number of districts covered under mandatory hallmarking from 288 districts of the country to 343 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, 30.54 crore articles of gold jewellery/artefacts have been hallmarked as on 25 November 2023.

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, 50 licences have been granted to refineries/ India Government Mint for Gold bullion and coin as on 25 November, 2023.

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, three AHCs were provided Central Assistance for setting up the centre in deficient location. In capacity building one programme was for training of BIS officers.

G20 Standards Dialogue 2023 on 02-03 November 2023 in New Delhi

Within the framework of India’s G20 presidency, BIS organized the G20 Standards Dialogue 2023 on 02-03 November 2023 at Bharat Mandapam, ITPO, New Delhi, India. The dialogue explored how sustainability can be addressed through inclusive standardisation and good regulatory practices to achieve ‘Zero Defect and Zero Effect’. The event was organized with the support and guidance of Ministry on Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution and Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India. The Dialogue witnessed enthusiastic response and participation from leaderships of International Organization for Standardization (ISO), International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) & International Telecommunication Union (ITU), international delegations from National Standards Bodies of G20 members and invitee countries and Missions, Ministries, Regulatory Bodies, Accreditation Bodies, Industry, Industry Associations, Laboratories, Academia and Consumer Organizations within India. The dialogue was attended by around 750 delegates. G20 Standards Dialogue comprised of an Opening Ceremony and three Technical Sessions followed by Remarks by G20 Members and Invitees in the Concluding Session on the theme of the event ‘Zero Defect and Zero Effect’.

 

Steps towards Legal Metrology 

Online Portal for services provided by Legal Metrology: 

 All the services provided under Legal Metrology are online through the portals. These portals are for ease of doing business and reducing compliance burden. The work of certification has become very fast and reduces the time for submitting application etc.

NSWS Portal: The following two services provided by Legal Metrology are on the portal www.nsws.gov.in

  • (a) Approval of models of weights & measures
  • (b) Registration of Manufacturers/ Packers/ Importers of pre-packaged commodities
  • (ii) The portal developed by the Department of Consumer Affairs www.lm.doca.gov.in is used for submitting applications/ issuing certificates for the following:
  • (a) Nomination of Director of a company
  • (b) Registration of import of weighting and measuring instrument under section 19 of Act

 

Following amendments are made under the Rules for ease of doing business:

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. 

The Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011 were amended to allow the electronic products industries to declare certain mandatory declarations in the digital form through the QR Code, 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 Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011 were amended to declare month and year of manufacture on pre-packaged commodities and to make few declarations for loose commodities ordered through e-commerce in the interest of consumers. 

The Jan Vishwas (Amendment of Provisions) Bill, 2023 has been published as Act No. 18 of 2023. The Bill contains amendments in 42 Acts across 19 Ministries/ Departments including the Legal Metrology Act, 2009. Under the said Act, 7 sections of the Legal Metrology Act, 2009 have been decriminalized. 

As per the sub-section (2) of section 1 of the Jan Vishwas (Amendment of Provisions) Act 2023, respective Ministries/ Departments may issue notifications wherein the date for enforcement of amendments may be decided by respective Ministries / Departments. The said Notification has been issued and the said amendment is in force w.e.f. 01.10.2023.

 

OIML is an Intergovernmental organization which was established in 1955. 

 

  1. became it’s member in 1956. It has 63 Member States and 64 Corresponding Members. To sell a weight or measure in the International market an OIML Pattern Approval certificate is mandatory. Bharat has now become authority for issuing internationally accepted OIML certificate for selling weights & measures anywhere in the world. 

 

The domestic manufacturers can now export their weighing and measuring instrument worldwide without incurring additional testing fees, resulting in significant cost savings. Bharat can also support the foreign manufacturers by issuing OIML pattern approval certificates from our certified RRSLs. By issuing the OIML approval certificates of weighing & measuring instrument to the foreign manufacturers Bharat will also generate forex in terms of fees etc.

Bharat now joins an exclusive group of nations, including Australia, Switzerland, China, Czech Republic, Germany, Denmark, France, United Kingdom, Japan, Netherlands, Sweden, and Slovakia, as the 13th country worldwide, authorized for issuing OIML approval certificates.

Compliance of provision of country of origin for all goods including on e-commerce platforms

  1. In the interest of consumers all the importers are required to declare country of origin for imported products including on e-commerce entities
  2. Various notices have been issued to e-commerce entities for not complying the provisions of rules of declaring mandatory information on digital platforms
  3. The cases against the violators who have not compounded the offence are being filed in the court of law.

 

Advisories issued:

 

  1. An advisory was issued to Controllers of Legal Metrology of all States/ UTs to create awareness among the manufacturers/ importers/ packers to pack and sell the welding electrodes in “weight with diameter of welding rod (as per the required Standard)” in the interest of consumers/ users. 
  2. An advisory/ direction was issued to the Controllers of Legal Metrology of all States/ UTs requesting to direct the field Officers to ensure that the surgical and industrial gloves meant for retail sale are complying with the provisions made under the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011. It was came into the notice that spurious quality of surgical and industrial gloves are being imported and sold in the country in contravention of the mandatory declarations required under the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011. 
  3. An advisory/ direction was issued to the Controllers of Legal Metrology of all States/ UTs requesting to direct the field Officers to ensure compliance of the provisions of the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011. It was also requested that if the prices are allowed to be revised by the Government/ NPPA/ any other Statutory Body, then the industries may be allowed to revise the prices as per the Notification issued by Government/ NPPA/ any other Statutory Body.
  4. To understand the difficulties faced by petroleum industries and for ease of doing business, a round table workshop was organized on 9.6.2023 at Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi. After the workshop various advisories/ directions were issued to the State Governments and Oil Marketing Companies in the interest of consumers and retail dealers.

Efforts towards Consumer Awareness 

  • Department of Consumer Affairs (DoCA) implements policies for the benefit of consumers and public at large, strengthening consumer protection and generating awareness in the process. DoCA has undertaken various initiatives towards this objective of 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 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.
  • Audio spots (live messages by RJs) were run through All India Radio (AIR) to generate consumer awareness on various topics. The Department broadcasted consumer awareness related jingles during Asia Cup cricket tournament, 2023 and ICC Cricket World Cup, 2023.
  • Video spots for generating consumer awareness have been telecast on DD National and regional channels of Doordarshan network.
  • The Department has been using the cinema theatres across the country in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities by running video spots on screens for spreading consumer awareness. 
  • 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://twitter.com/jagograhakjago,https://www.facebook.com/ConsumerAdvocacy/ 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) - 2023, held 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. The Department has participated through State of Nagaland in Nagaland Hornbill Festival, 2023
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