Union Minister for Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution Ram Vilas Paswan today launched the Bureau of Indian Standard’s Mobile App ‘BIS-Care’ and three portals – the Standardization, Conformity Assessment and Training Portals of e-BIS on www.manakonline.in for consumers. The mobile app BIS-Care can be operated on any Android phone. This app is operational in Hindi and English language and can be downloaded free from Google play store. Consumers can check the authenticity of the ISI-marked and hallmarked products and lodge complaints using this app. The Minister said that the government has taken several steps to protect the interests of consumers.
Paswan said that another important aspect of BIS functioning is certification and surveillance to enforce the implementation of standards. The Minister informed that the BIS is strengthening its capacity of enforcement by implementation of e-BIS, an integrated portal covering all its functions, enlisting the services of outside agencies for factory and market surveillance and development of mobile app-based and AI-enabled surveillance methods. He said it is important to ensure that consumers are aware of the standards and quality products and become a part of our efforts to eliminate the supply of sub-standard products. In the briefing, the Minister also informed that BIS is developing a portal on Consumer Engagement, which will facilitate the online registration of Consumer Groups, submission of proposals and approval thereof, and complaint management.
Ram Vilas Paswan also spoke about the plan to implement One Nation, One Standard, and said that BIS has formulated a scheme for the recognition of other Standard Development Organizations in the country with the objective of harmonization of standard formulation. It is under examination and will be launched soon. The Minister touched upon the Government’s thrust on the use of non-tariff barriers to regulate export and import and highlighted the role BIS was playing in the formulation of Quality Control Orders to make the standards mandatory. He said that BIS has actively collaborated with various Ministries and Departments to help them issue QCOs for 368 products and work on the formulating QCOs for 239 products is in progress. After standards becoming mandatory, manufacturers, both domestic and foreign, have to comply with them. He said that the number of licenses, which is about 37000 at present, issued by BIS is likely to see a sharp jump because of QCOs.
Paswan said that to achieve the objectives of Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan and protect the interests of consumers, BIS had to further strengthen its efforts to formulate standards in the areas important for boosting our exports and regulating the import of cheap and sub-standard products. He informed that Department of Consumer Affairs has approved the Standard National Action Plan and identified the important sectors of economy for development of standards.
Paswan also reiterated upon the need for helping MSMEs and touched upon the relaxations given to the MSMEs to cope with COVID-19. He said that not only the Minimum Marking Fee was reduced by 40%, but they were given the option to deposit the fee in two instalments. The deadline for renewal of license was also extended to 30th September, 2020.
During the present Covid-19 Pandemic, BIS also developed COVID standards for Cover-all and Ventilators and issued norms for grant of licence for N95 Masks, surgical masks, and eye protectors. This has resulted in increase in the production of ISI-marked PPE items. Daily production capacity for ISI-marked N95 masks in the country has gone up from less than two lakh to more than four Lakh.
Paswan also talked of the expansion and modernization of BIS labs and said that testing facilities for drinking water and assaying of gold jewellery are being created not only in 8 BIS labs, but in several branch offices, like Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Jammu, Bhopal, Raipur and Lucknow.
Bureau of Indian Standards through the National Institute of Standardization at Noida has been imparting training to various stakeholders, as training plays an important role in the promotion and implementation of standards. Through it has now formulated a comprehensive Training Policy and chalked out an action plan to reach out to industry, consumer organizations, and Govt. officials in a big way through online and offline courses. Paswan made special mention of the initiative to integrate the standards into the curriculum of professional education in the country. An Approach Paper, he said, has been developed and shared with MHRD, AICTE and other stakeholders.
Later, Ram Vilas Paswan informed the media that all the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 have come into force from 24th July, 2020 including the Consumer Protection (e-Commerce) Rules, 2020. The new Consumer Protection Act 2019 was implemented throughout the country from 20.7.2020. In his address, Paswan said that the new Act provides several measures, through rules, for the purposes of preventing unfair trade practices in e-commerce and also to protect the interest and rights of the consumers by establishing mechanism for timely and effective administration and settlement of consumers’ disputes. He said that the Central Government has accordingly notified the Consumer Protection (e-Commerce) Rules, 2020. He further added that the rules will apply to all goods and services bought or sold over digital or electronic network, all models of e-commerce, including marketplace (such as Amazon and Flipkart) and inventory models (where the e-commerce entity also owns the stocks). These Rules specify duties and liabilities of the e-commerce entities (market place & inventory model) and sellers on market place e-commerce entities.
He said that the e-commerce entities will be required to provide details on their platforms about their legal name, principal geographic address of headquarters/all branches, name and details of website and contact details like e-mail address, fax, landline and mobile numbers of customer care as well as of grievance officer. They are also required to provide information relating to return, refund, exchange, warranty and guarantee, delivery and shipment, modes of payment, grievance redressal mechanism, payment methods, security of payment methods, charge-back options, etc. Under the rules, e-commerce entities should not impose cancellation charges on consumers cancelling orders after confirmation unless similar charges are also borne by them in case of unilateral cancellation of orders by them.
In case of an e-commerce entity offering imported goods or services for sale, it has to mention the name and details of the importer. A seller on a market place will provide all relevant details about the goods and services offered for sale including country of origin which are necessary for enabling the consumer to make an informed decision at the pre-purchase stage.
The Minister said that every e-commerce entity is required to establish a grievance redressal mechanism and to appoint a grievance officer, whose name, designation, contact details are required to be displayed on its platform. The e-commerce entities are to ensure that the grievance officer acknowledges the receipt of any consumer complaint within forty-eight hours and redresses the complaint within one month from the date of receipt of the complaint.
He said that the violation of the rules will be dealt with under the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019. In case of class action regarding unfair trade practice and misleading advertisements, the Central Consumer Protection Authority can take action. For any compensation, a consumer can approach a Consumer Commission of appropriate jurisdiction.