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Why CPA-2019 is going to make the life of a healthcare services personnel miserable: Experts speak

M3 India Newsdesk Oct 15, 2020

The new Consumer Protection Act (CPA) 2019 was gazetted on 9th August 2019 but it came into force on 20th July 2020. Dr. Geetendra Sharma and Dr. Hitesh Bhatt, both medicolegal experts opine that the new CPA is not conducive to healthcare services.


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Put forth the new provisions and the key changes there in, as against the old CPA which is repealed as of now.

1. Territorial jurisdiction is broadened

Section – 34 regarding Jurisdiction of District Commission - (2)(d) is added according to which a complaint can be instituted in a District Commission within the local limits of whose jurisdiction (d) the complainant resides or personally works for gain.

In CPA-1986 there were only three option and according to which the complainant was allowed to file a complaint at the place where the opposite party resides or works or has a branch office or at the place where cause of action completely or partially arise. But now, a fourth option is added according to which the complainant is allowed to file the complaint at the place where the complainant resides or does business which is detrimental to the medical fraternity.

Take away: Patients can file a consumer complaint from where he/she personally works or resides, unlike CPA 1986 where complaints could be intitated only where the opposite party resided or carried out business. This clearly benefits the complainant. 


2. Pecuniary jurisdiction is changed

The pecuniary jurisdiction of District, State and National commission as per Section 34(1)(a)(i), Section–47(1)(a)(i) and Section 58(1)(a)(i) is changed.

Now, the District Commission shall have jurisdiction to entertain complaints where the value of goods or services paid as consideration does not exceed to one crore. The State Commission shall have jurisdiction to entertain complaint where the value of services or goods paid as consideration exceed more than one crore but does not exceed ten crores. In case of National Commission, the same should be above ten crores.

It is pertinent to draw your attention that as per CPA-1986 the pecuniary jurisdiction was decided as per the value of the goods or services or the amount of compensation demanded but now in CPA-2019 the pecuniary jurisdiction will be decided as per value of services and goods only because the word “amount of compensation demanded” is removed.

Take away: As per the new act, almost all cases of medical negligence will be filed first in the District Commission because it is very rare when the patient pays more than one crore as a bill to the hospital.


3. Qualifications etc. of president and members of district, state and national commission which was there previously in the Act itself are removed from the act and are kept in rules. Intentions of doing so is not clear.

4. Provisions of having selection committee for the selection of president and members of commissions which was there previously in CPA-1986 is not removed from the CPA - 2019. Again, the intentions for doing so is not clear.

5. In CPA-2019 a consumer is allowed to file a case electronically without going through many formalities.

Take away: This might highly increase the risk and the number of frivolous litigations on instigation of third persons.


6. Over and above the three commissions, there is a provision of appointment of central consumer protection authority

Appeal against the order of CCPA is only allowed in national commission, which means that the status of CCPA is comparable with the state commission. Vast powers of enquiry and penalties are given to CCPA. CCPA can initiate inquiry on complaint received and suo moto too. CCPA will deal with the matters related to violation of consumer rights, cases of unfair trade practice and cases of misleading advertisements. What more is left, is difficult to comment.

Take away: For misleading advertisement CCPA can award fine up to ten lakh rupees for the first offence and up to fifty lakh rupees for the subsequent offence. There are heavy punishments for not complying the orders of CCPA. Whoever fails to comply with any direction of the central authority under sections 20 and 21, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months or with fine which may extend to twenty lakh rupees, or both.


7. Unfair trade practice is not defined exhaustively, and anything can be befitted easily under the definition of unfair trade practice for which punishment can be awarded up to ten lakh rupees fine

The recent case of Vinod Khanna vs. R. G. Stone hospital is the example of the same in which pre-printed uniform consent papers were considered as arbitrariness and high handedness on the part of doctors and declared as unfair trade practice and ten lakhs rupees were ordered to be deposited in legal aid though the complainant never raised the issue of consent at all.


8. Excessive pricing, Misleading advertisement, not to issue bill that too in a particular format for the money received from the consumer etc. are considered as unfair trade practice

In many cases, charges cannot be ascertained in advance in medical practice. What if the amount to “misleading advertisement” is left at the discretion of authorities. This CPA-2019 is going to make the life of a healthcare services personnel miserable.


9. Though the facilities of mediation are available with the consent of both parties as per new CPA; it will not be available in cases where the patient has suffered grievous hurt or death as per CPA-2020 rules

There are many more things which are not favourable for medical practice, we shall see its effects on healthcare services in the days to come.

 

Disclaimer- The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author's and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of M3 India.

The authors, Advo. (Dr) Hitesh Bhatt and Dr. Geetendra Sharma from “B & S medicolegal consultancies” are Medico-legal Consultants.

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