The Consumer Rights Protection Act, 2009 was enacted by the government of Bangladesh in April 2009 to ensure consumer protection by realising consumer’s right to quality goods and services at fair prices. It also highlights consumers’ right to information regarding quality, quantity, standard and value of the goods and services. To fulfil the objectives of this Act, a National Consumer Right Protection Council has been established. A director general of the Consumer Rights Protection Council is appointed to oversee the consumer rights practices throughout the country. To facilitate the functioning of National Consumer Right Protection Council, there shall be a district committee in every district named District Consumer Rights Protection Committee.
Who is a consumer?
According to the law, consumers are those persons who, for themselves or for their dependants, buy or use or obtain permission to use any product or service by offering a price, prompt or due or in instalments. In addition, any person using such products with the consent of the buyer will also be treated as a consumer. But if someone buys something for the purpose of resale or for any other commercial purpose, he or she shall not be considered as a consumer.
Rights of a consumer
Right to obtain commodities or services at a price fixed by the authority or at a reasonable price
Right to have safe and pure products
Right to have necessary and correct information about products
Right to be informed of the qualities or defects (if any) of a particular product
Right to know the accurate quantity of the product
Right to know the utility, purity, and price of the product
Right to have products or services in correct quantity and quality
Right to have choice among similar products
Right to have protection against activities relating to purchase or sale of products by which life or property may be in danger
Right to have access to remedy in relation to violations of consumer rights
Right to have protection from concealment of information and unfair trade practices
Right to have protection from arbitrarily imposed sale conditions by the seller
Complaining is rewarding
Complaints about any anti-consumer rights practice under this Act have to be filed by any person to the director general or any person so authorised by the directorate within 30 days of the incident.
The authority upon receiving a complaint shall immediately investigate or inquire into such a complaint. If such a complaint is proved to be true after investigation, the director general or any officer authorised by him may, in his administrative action, impose fine upon the guilty person.
If any fine is imposed and realised, 25% of such realised fine shall immediately be paid to the complainant concerned.
If any regular criminal case is filed in a court or in a special tribunal under this Act and if the accused is fined upon found guilty and if the fine is realised, 25% of the realised fine shall be paid to the complainant concerned.
Any person may make complaint by examining the matter of adulteration or copying of goods in a public or private laboratory at his own initiative.
Though the ‘right to information’ is a basic right of the citizens, most of the citizens don’t know about consumers’ rights, their forms as well as the protection rules and regulations. As Fozor Ali, a construction worker says, “eita ki dhoroner odhikar bap? Bazar e to khali dokandarder e power!” (What kind of rights are these? It is the traders who seem to have all the powers in bazar!). And it is quite hard to find any advertisements on TV channels, or even a billboard or posters for letting people like him know about these rights.
Presently, activities for securing consumer rights are stuck solely around the rallies and the seminars in the Consumer Rights Day in 15th March every year.
Then comes the situation of the safety of the consumers and their property. In Bangladesh, it is common that the products the traders serve in the markets are not really “safe”. Most of the fishes, meats, fruits and vegetables are mixed with formalin and other preservative chemicals which are in fact hazardous to human body. Fast foods and other food products are mostly adulterated or prepared in unhealthy environments.
Though the Special Powers Act 1974 under section 25C prescribes the highest punishment of death penalty for adulteration of foods and drugs, the unscrupulous people are continuing the hateful acts of adulteration. Lack of strict enforcement of laws can be traced as the main factor behind this problem.
Talking about adulteration and unhealthy environments, there is also some good news about consumer protection nowadays. The government in the recent years has put some magistrates to inquire about the products served in every market. Those magistrates work as mobile courts which are able to give punishments on-the-scene if they have enough evidence of adulteration or unhealthy environments in the food shops. Though not being a constant factor, the fear factor of those mobile courts is making many of the traders of the markets to abide by the rules. Although the success of these mobile courts lights up hopes about the improvement in the activities for securing consumer protection, there is still no public knowledge about where to call or contact in any other manner if their rights as a consumer is violated. Those rights about having complaints are also recognised and emphasised twice by the UN as the “Right to be heard” and the “Right to redress”, but this prospect is unfortunately put in the no-care region by the authorities in Bangladesh.
According to a recommendation report on THE CONSUMER RIGHTS PROTECTION ACT (CRPA), 2009 accomplished by United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), India and Malaysia in recent times rose from the situations we are presently facing in terms of consumers’ rights protection.
The report also criticised the activities of Bangladesh regarding the eight foundations of the UN Consumer Bill of Rights. Further, it emphasised on taking steps to improve the activities of the consumer protection institutions in Bangladesh.
Shortcomings of the Consumer Rights Protection Act (CRPA), 2009:
THE CONSUMER RIGHTS PROTECTION ACT (CRPA), 2009 does not follow the international standards in terms of dispute resolution. It does not provide for any quasi-judicial dispute resolution system for resolution of consumers’ complaints. Most of the international consumer laws allow to receive complaints directly from the consumers, but the CRPA, 2009 does not allow direct complaints to be received from the consumers rather it mandates the endorsement of the Director General of the Consumer Rights Protection Department (CRPD) in this regard.As per the CRPA, the usual trial procedure will be followed in redressing the issues arising out of the violation of the CRPA. The usual trial procedure proved to be time consuming and more complex as well as multifarious. Most of the countries follow a trial system in this respect which is quite unique, special and simple as well as totally different from the traditional trial system. The CRPA, 2009 should be amended for the purpose of fair protection of the consumer rights.