The consumer protection act has been safeguarding consumers for over three decades, protecting them from fraudulent trading activities carried out by traders. In 2019, the Consumer Protection Act was passed by both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha with the consent of the President of India. This new act includes provisions focusing on e-commerce, establishing strict norms for fraudulent activity, providing dispute resolution mechanisms for fraudulent trade practices, and emphasising mediation for consumer protection. This article aims to explain how mediation works in safeguarding consumer rights.
AT WHICH STAGE CAN THE CONSUMER COMMISSION REFER A DISPUTE FOR MEDIATION?
The Consumer Commission can refer a consumer dispute for mediation after its first hearing if it deems there is a possibility for settlement between the parties. Once the dispute is settled through mediation, further appeals are not allowed.
CAN PARTIES IN A CONSUMER DISPUTE APPLY FOR MEDIATION?
Parties involved in a consumer dispute are not prohibited by law from applying for mediation. The commission can refer the dispute for mediation if all parties consent.
MEDIATION CONDUCTED BY THE COURT
The court encourages the use of mediation to resolve marital and family-related disputes. Separate mediation cells are established by the civil procedure code. The Consumer Protection Act of 2019, specifically sections 35, 49, and 59, also address mediation about consumer disputes.
CONSUMER MEDIATION CELLS
Consumer mediation cells have been established to resolve consumer disputes. These cells exist at three levels: state, district, and national. Once a dispute is resolved by a mediation cell, there is no provision for an appeal.
DOCUMENTATION MAINTAINED BY MEDIATION CELLS
Consumer mediation cells are required to maintain documentation, including records of proceedings, the number of mediators within the cell, and the submission of annual reports, among other things.
EMPANELMENT OF MEDIATORS
Mediators are appointed by the commission, with the appointment process involving both the commission and the president of the commission. Mediators are selected based on their skill in resolving disputes. If conflicts arise between parties or a mediator is found to have made a judgment under undue influence, the mediator may be changed. The term period for a mediator in a mediation cell is five years.
PROCEDURE FOR MEDIATION
The mediator begins the mediation process by introducing themselves to the parties involved, helping to create a comfortable environment for the mediation.
The mediator conducts an inquiry into the dispute and the points raised by both parties. They may also conduct individual inquiries to gather confidential information from the parties.
Once the parties settle, the mediator facilitates the creation of a settlement agreement, ensuring that both parties willingly enter into the contract.
The process of mediation for consumer dispute resolution is an essential feature of the Consumer Protection Act. Mediation protects consumer rights and provides a quick, cost-effective, and time-efficient solution for resolving consumer disputes.