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Dhaka, Friday October 9









Awareness for consumer protection

M S Siddiqui Consumer rights gained importance in the world, particularly in western countries in the last country. Subsequently it gained some ground in the developing countries as well. Almost all the countries now have consumer protection laws. The rights of consumers got international recognition when in 1985 the UN adopted the basic guidelines for consumer rights protection. The guidelines stipulate that 'all citizens, regardless of their incomes or social standing, have basic rights as consumers.' Towards the end of the 20th century, consumer rights protection became a movement. Nevertheless, the rights of consumers continue to be denied or violated by governments, manufactures, sellers, and other powerful quarters of society. Consumer rights include: the right to safety, the right to be informed, the right to choose, and the right to be heard. A global consumer movement led by Consumers International, a global federation of over 250 consumer organisations, added four more rights: the right to satisfaction of basic needs, the right to redress, the right to education, and the right to a healthy environment. Following a movement by the Bangladesh consumers and civil society, Consumers' Rights Protection Act 2009 was recently enacted by the government. Due to poverty, unemployment and illiteracy, the people of Bangladesh face more consumer right problems. Like other rights, consumer rights remain most ignored in Bangladesh; for lack of awareness many people do not check the manufacturing and expiry dates or whether or not the ingredients used in foodstuff meet the standards. Action by mobile courts created some awareness about quality of foods sold in Bangladesh in recent years. But there is controversy whether the mobile court action was for publicity or for correction of sellers' conduct the poor and the disadvantaged consumers are not aware of their rights. Unlettered consumers remain the worst sufferers of food and commodity adulteration. They are cheated in quantity. Consumers also lose out due to artificial price-hike. Lack of enforcement of the consumer rights protection law also makes the consumers losers. The consumers have an inherent right to safety - to get the protection protect against hazardous goods, right to be informed - about price, quality, purity and the right to choose. A competitive market can ensure their right to fair price. Right to be heard, right to seek redress, a protection against unfair trade practices and settlement of grievances, right to consumer education, and awareness about goods and issues

Availability of a variety of goods and services at competitive prices also helps the consumer. They have the right to seek redresses against unfair trade practices and unscrupulous exploitation. One the other hand, the seller has the right to sell goods. The buyer must have quiet possession of the goods he buys. A third party should not get the bills for the goods. Goods sold should match the description. If a consumer relies on the seller's skill or judgement in specialised field, the goods should reasonably serve that purpose. A product bought must match the sample in quality. The goods should be of saleable quality, except for discount sale of defective items in display. And the goods should be new and unused, unless otherwise declared and agreed. The services sold must be performed in a skilful and workmanlike manner. Any agreement signed between a seller and a consumer giving away any right is not enforceable. A warranty expressed in a contract or in promotional materials or any public statement should be considered to be part of a contract. The subsequently, the next user with the consent of original, should have same warranty as original consumer without any additional service charge for transfer of right or anything else. The consumer protection law in any country provides for the protection of consumers. The law stipulates punishment, prevention and compensation. It is intended to provide the consumer simple, speedy and inexpensive redress to grievances, award relief and compensation wherever appropriate. It is the responsibility of a consumer to take also some duties like getting a bill for every important purchase, the warranty card and check the (BSTI) standardisation mark. It helps make a complaint on solid ground. And a consumer must now how to exercise his rights. Common cheating by sellers include supplying less in weight and measurements, substandard, defective date expired goods, charging higher price etc. Selling of adulterated and duplicate products, lack of safety devices as per rule, artificial scarcity, black marketing, false and incomplete information regarding quality, durability, and safety, unsatisfactory after sales service are also among methods used by sellers to cheat consumers. They also cheat the consumers providing inadequate information of goods and services and by manipulating supplies. The governments has a vital role to protect the consumers in modern markets. In the areas of policymaking, legislation, updating the law, and building institutions and their capacity development for the enforcement of consumer law are among the government's responsibilities. A responsible government should also educate and create public awareness through the media and conferences and seminars. In the Bangladesh context, the government should reactivate the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) and create a consumers corporation for public distribution system. The two bodies can go for local purchase or imports for the purpose. The standards and testing institution needs to be strengthened to oversee product quality. It is also the responsibility of the government to interact with International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO), FAO and WHO for updating food standards.