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Govt Plans to Establish 750 Price Monitoring Centres Across Country by March 31st 2023

Rohit Kumar Singh, Secretary Department of Consumer Affairs, urged all states to establish price monitoring centres in all districts during a day-long workshop in Guwahati, Assam. He stated that the Centre plans to reach the target of 750 price monitoring centres by March 31, 2023, and that financial assistance will be provided.

Shivam Dwivedi
Department will provide its full support to all State and District Commissions to have the necessary infrastructure for the effective functioning of consumer commissions
Department will provide its full support to all State and District Commissions to have the necessary infrastructure for the effective functioning of consumer commissions

Centre is making every effort, through the Price Monitoring Division, to control the prices of essential commodities, thereby keeping inflation under control. The Department of Consumer Affairs regularly generates price data and maintains a price collection system for 22 essential food commodities in the country.

The workshop was organized in collaboration with the Government of Assam to address consumer protection issues in the North Eastern states. During his inaugural address, the Secretary explained how the Department, National Commission, State Commissions, and District Commissions, as well as the entire ecosystem, are working together to protect consumer interests in terms of quality, quantity, standards, testing, and benchmarks via BIS, NTH, Legal Metrology, and the National Consumer Helpline.

He also emphasized the role of the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) as India's National Standards Body in developing Indian Standards and implementing voluntary and mandatory standards such as Quality Control Orders, as well as how consumers can be assured that what is being offered, the quantity being offered, is exactly the same as claimed on the product through Legal Metrology and Weights and Measures. In terms of consumer protection, he emphasized that infrastructure of commissions, human resources in consumer commissions, and use of technology are three verticals through which the entire consumer protection ecosystem is made robust and responsible.

It was assured that the Department will provide its full support to all State and District Commissions to have the necessary infrastructure for the effective functioning of consumer commissions as per the policy, which states that 50% will be funded by the State Government and 50% by the Central Government. It was requested that all representatives of the State Government provide their previous year's utilization certificates, if they are pending, without which the centre cannot release funds.

When asked about the appointment of Presidents and Members and the issue of vacancies in Consumer Commissions, he proudly stated that the North East has the lowest number of vacancies in the country. Highlighting the online filing of consumer complaints via e Daakhil, he stated that the Department has recently finalized a format/template for the consumer to file a complaint, which includes standard fields, and that once all the mandatory information is provided, commissions can readily admit genuine cases. He assured that the template would be deployed and spread throughout the system very soon and that commissions could expect an increase in the number of cases filed through e-daakhil throughout the country.

Singh also emphasized the shift in the consumer protection paradigm with the advent of e-commerce, stating that with the changing equation between consumer and supplier, mainly through e-commerce, there has been a significant increase in consumer grievances registered at the National Consumer Helpline in the e-commerce sector. It was revealed that 45-50% of the 90,000 complaints registered in NCH each month are related to e-commerce.

He also emphasized that, as a necessary measure, the Department is taking action through the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA), which is led by Nidhi Khare, Additional Secretary, Department of Consumer Affairs. However, he urged consumers to be more aware and assertive of their rights, as well as to challenge the actions of e-commerce companies. Speaking about the Department's recent initiatives, he mentioned the release of BIS standard IS 1900/2022 on fake reviews, which e-commerce companies must follow as part of their policy for generating and publishing reviews on their platform.

Highlighting the role of Consumer Commissions in reducing the pendency of cases, he stated that one-third of the pending cases pertain to the insurance sector and that the department is attempting to target the genesis of complaints by participating in Lok Adalats and engaging intensively with Insurance companies, Department of Financial Services, and IRDAI. He also requested commissions to function effectively in reducing the pendency of cases. Paban Kumar Borthakur, Chief Secretary, Government of Assam, emphasized that the effective functioning of consumer commissions is critical for consumer protection and that if consumer commissions are not functioning correctly, consumers become kings in exile rather than kings. Furthermore, emphasizing the importance of consumer awareness, he stated that consumers could not ascertain their rights unless they are educated about them; thus, awareness is critical.

He also urged all North Eastern State Consumer Commissions to work harder, collaborate, and take an active role in the national campaign to reduce pending cases. Nidhi Khare, Additional Secretary, welcomed the gathering and stated that the workshop's goal is to shed light on and discuss the importance of consumer affairs in India's northeast. She emphasized that the Department of Consumer Affairs has taken numerous initiatives in consumer matters at the national, state, and district levels, including establishing mediation cells, conducting Lok Adalats, and using e-filing for hassle-free consumer grievance redressal, among other things.

Anupam Mishra, Joint Secretary, Department of Consumer Affairs, delivered the vote of thanks and thanked the Chief Secretary, Government of Assam, and his team for their tremendous assistance in making the event a huge success. The inaugural session was followed by a panel discussion on reducing the pendency of cases in consumer commissions, strengthening infrastructure, using mediation for faster resolution of consumer grievances, using e-filing for hassle-free consumer grievance redressal, and so on. Separate technical sessions were held to discuss the use of National Test House, Guwahati in the material used in government projects, and the use of ISI quality mark products in state projects, among other things.

Justice Ram Surat Ram Maurya, Member of the NCDRC, Subhash Chandra, Member of the NCDRC, Justice Deepa Sharma, Member of the NCDRC, Dr. S. M. Kantikar, Member of the NCDRC, Justice Arindam Lodh, President of the Tripura State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, Justice Prasanta Kumar Deka, President of the Assam State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, Th. Saimon Singh, Acting President of the Manipur State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, Ramdinliani, Mizoram's Secretary for Food, Civil Supplies, and Consumer Affairs, Chubasangla Anar, Commissioner & Secretary, Government of Nagaland; and other senior officials from North Eastern states attended the workshop and presided over various panel discussions.

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