Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday vowed to protect consumer interest, saying a new law is on the anvil that will crack down on misleading advertisements and provide time-bound redressal of their grievances. Listing consumer-friendly measures taken by the BJP-led government in the past three-and-half years, he said a simplified goods and services tax (GST) has ended a plethora of state and central taxes and laid the ground for reduction in prices in the long run. Rigour for use of energy-efficient LED bulbs has not just brought down their prices but also helped save Rs 20,000 crore in electricity bills, Modi said. Besides, he said, the government has brought down prices of life-saving heart stent implants as well as knee implants. He also said that paying consumers subsidy directly on cooking LPG has led to a saving of Rs 57,000 crore. Addressing a global conference on consumer affairs, Modi stressed that consumer interest has not just been protected by giving them rights, but also by taming inflation and various schemes that have helped poor and middle class save on spending. “Today we are in the process of enacting a new Consumer Protection Act keeping in view business practices and requirements of the country. The proposed Act lays great emphasis on consumer empowerment,” Modi said. The rules are being simplified to ensure that consumer grievances are redressed in a time-bound manner and at least possible cost, he said, adding that stringent provisions are proposed against misleading ads. A Central Consumer Protection Authority with executive powers will be set up for quick remedial action. The government’s proposed new law will replace the Consumer Protection Act of 1986 by incorporating the amended 2015 UN guidelines on consumer protection. Protecting the consumer interest is government’s priority, Modi said, adding that the government through various steps such as GST, real estate and BIS laws and Ujala, Ujjwala and DBT schemes, is helping consumers save money. “With GST, a new business culture is developing and in the long term consumers will be the biggest beneficiaries. It is a transparent system in which no one can hurt the interests of the consumers,” he said. Increased competition among companies due to the GST will lead to moderation in prices and this will directly benefit poor and middle class consumers, he said. Modi said the time reduction in transportation of goods would also lead to fall in prices and this benefit will also be transferred to consumers. He said inflation has been brought under control leading to economic benefits for poor and middle class consumers. “Otherwise, the rate at which the inflation was rising during previous government’s tenure it would have resulted in huge rise in the budget of the common citizen’s kitchen.” Under the Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) Scheme, he said, “By transferring the money directly into the beneficiaries’ bank accounts the government has prevented leakage of more than Rs 57,000 crores.” The government has strengthened the Public Distribution System through technology to ensure that the poor, who have the right to affordable food grains, get their due, he said. He talked about “Give it up’ campaign under which more than 10 million beneficiaries surrendered their LPG subsidy and the saved subsidy amount have been used to give free gas connections to 3 crore households so far. Modi said a new Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act has been enacted to protect home buyers and the government is working to achieve the target of housing for all by 2022. He pointed out that consumers had to wait for years to get the possession of their homes and there used to be ambiguity regarding the area of the flat.
Under the new law RERA, he said only registered developers can seek bookings after getting all the required permissions. Moreover, booking amount has been fixed only at 10 per cent.The developers will not be able to divert buyers’ money to other projects as the new law provides that 70 per cent of money received from customers to be kept in an escrow account. Modi said the Bureau of Indian Standard Act has been enacted under which any commodity or service can be brought under compulsory certification. The Act has provisions to order recall of substandard products from the market. Quoting UNICEF’ recent survey, the Prime Minister said financial savings for each household in Open Defecation Free communities are Rs 50,000 per year, considering medical costs averted, value of time savings and mortality averted. Under the Jan Aushadhi Pariyojna, the government is providing affordable medicines to people and 500 medicines have been included in the list of essential drugs and their prices have been reduced. The government has capped rates of coronary stents and knee implants, he said, added that “this also is saving crores of rupees for the poor and middle class people”. On a scheme to empower rural consumers on digital literacy, Modi said one person each from 6 crore households is being made digitally literate. This campaign will facilitate villagers for electronic transactions and availing government services digitally. On Ujala scheme, Modi said: “This scheme alone has caused saving of more than Rs 20,000 crore for consumers by reducing the cost of LED bulb and through reduction in electricity bills,” he said. Talking about the global conference, in which 20 Asian countries participated, Modi said the entire world is changing into a single market with globalisation and stressed on creating a “regional coalition” for consumer protection. E-commerce and trans-border mobility of people have boosted cross-border transactions, he said, calling for a strong regulatory system in every country and information sharing among countries to sustain consumer confidence.