The term ‘product liability’ as not been defined under any statute in India. However, the substantive civil laws that deal or relate with product liability are: The Sale of Goods Act, 1930; The Consumer Protection Act, 2019 and the Indian Contract Act, 1872. The main issues that arise with regard to liability in e-commerce can be broadly divided into: contractual, statutory, tortuous and product liability. The new Consumer Protection Act has widened the definition of ‘consumer’ to include persons buying through online modes. It has also introduced the concept of ‘product liability’ by holding the product manufacturers, product service providers and product sellers liable. This Act has extended the liability to e-commerce platforms by negating the defence that it acts only as a platform or aggregator.
The question with regards to limitation period to file a suit for product liability in e-commerce has not been specifically stated in any of the laws. However, for other suits the Consumer Protection Act provides a limitation period of two years from the date of cause of action. Further, the issue relating to the cases where there is more than one entity liable, what will the final liability be is questionable. In cases of product liability there are certain contractual breaches which take place and the liability is not certain depending upon the facts and circumstances of each case. The Consumer Protection Act also does not mention any specific bar with regards to jurisdiction in cases of liability in e-commerce.
In relation to any regulatory authority which may be involved in an electronic commerce transaction there exists no statutory liability for providing defective or faulty product. They are just in-charge of prescribing compliance standards and implement enforcement of legislation, on the contrary there is no law which holds them liable for a product. In India, with regards to product liability it is required that an obligation is put on the manufacturers or sellers to recall products. There is no one designated regulatory body that governs product safety reporting or recalls.
Under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 there has been no mentioning about the criminal sanctions that should be imposed on the manufacturers, sellers and providers of products and services respectively. Only sector specific statutes like the FSSA and Drugs Act, prescribes penalties for manufacturing and supplying defective products.
The definition of the terms provided under the new Consumer Protection Act, 2019 are much wider and impose liability on any person involved in any manner in sale or re-sale of the product including importers, marketers and repairers. This kind of increases the difficulty in case of liability for the manufacturers and sellers of the product. The issue regarding the extent to which the liability of the product manufacturer and seller or the service provider can be excluded widely prevailed, because in all the cases they cannot be held liable.
Tags : product liability, consumer protection act