Consumer protection law needs to be enforced
THE call raised at a seminar in the capital Dhaka on Thursday for the help of the commerce and information ministries, the Information Commission and non-governmental organisations in the implementation of the Consumer Rights Protection Act has merits. According to a report published in New Age on Friday, the speakers at the seminar, organised by the Consumers’ Association of Bangladesh and Manusher Jonno Foundation, lamented that the Consumer Rights Protection Act and the Right to Information Act were passed on the same day in 2009 but only the latter was being implemented. While the efficiency and effectiveness of the implementation of the Right to Information Act is arguable, the apparent indifference to implementation of the Consumer Rights Protection Act seems to underline what could be the incumbents’ inherent bias against the consumers in particular and the people in general.
It would not be an exaggeration, perhaps, to say that consumers, especially those belonging to the fixed- and low-income sections of society, have generally been hard done by over the years, through successive governments, with the ruling class almost invariably, directly or indirectly, protecting vested interests. Time and again, the end users have seen their cost of procuring products and services go up on rationales that are often at odds with the reality on the ground but not their purchasing capacity. Be it the charge of utility services or prices of essential commodities, the trend has been on a sustained upward curve. Indeed, there have been some external factors, e.g. prices on the international market, involved in the surge in the cost of living; however, mostly the primary reason has been either market collusion or flawed policy pursued by the government.
Regrettably, however, the incumbents have neither gone after the so-called market syndicate nor corrected their policies. Meanwhile, the consumers at large have been left vulnerable to cruel exploitation and struggled endlessly to make adjustments, which, according to a study done last, include even reduction in food intake, i.e. compromise on nutrition sufficiency. The commerce ministry under the incumbent government, just like its predecessors, initially talked tall about consumer protection and tough against market manipulation and also resorted to such gimmicks as introduction of price charts at kitchen markets. The ministry now seems to have run out of steam and it has once again become business as usual.
A law is as good as its enforcement, and unless the government effectively and efficiently enforces the Consumer Rights Protection Act, it is as good as a piece of paper. Hence, instead of staking any claim of success in protecting the rights of the consumers by showcasing the law, the incumbents need to score some points in its enforcement.
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