Right to a reasonable price and the right to know the contents of consumer products are the two most fundamental rights of any consumer. With the food industry gaining increasing power, the protection of consumer rights is becoming challenging. In small countries like Bhutan, where nearly everything is imported, ensuring reasonable pricing and product contents is even more challenging. This is further exacerbated by the growing import of food, cosmetic, and other products from countries without proper labelling and without prices from manufacturers.

Section 13 of the Consumer Protection Act, 2012 mandates that “a manufacturer must display all goods for sale to the consumer and affix a price, whether written, printed, or stamped on the goods or other materials used in connection with the goods displayed for sale and must not require the consumer to pay a price higher than the displayed price of the goods.” The Consumer Rules 2015 reiterate this, requiring that prices must be displayed.

Section 27 of the Consumer Act of Bhutan ensures that consumers are protected by ensuring that goods meet a certain standard and are satisfactory in terms of their quality and price. Sections 30 and 31 of the Act mandate that the prices of goods must be explicitly provided and ensure that they do not charge more than a reasonable price. This provision aims to protect consumers from arbitrary pricing practices and ensures they are not exploited in the absence of a clear agreement regarding the price. These rights are in place to ensure “fair, non-discriminatory, and equitable treatment by businesses.”

The Maximum Retail Price (MRP) is the highest price set by the manufacturer or seller of a product, including all applicable taxes. But most Bhutanese consumers consider products sold at MRP to be cheap, and businesses take advantage of such ill-informed consumers. The determination of the MRP involves considering production costs, marketing expenses, and profit margins.

However, this is easier said than done when most products are manufactured outside Bhutan. It becomes even more challenging with products from Thailand, Korea, and other origins where manufacturers do not provide prices. This leaves businesses to charge prices at their discretion, which can sometimes be very unreasonable.

Similarly, the right to know the ingredients of products is even more critical. The CPA and Rule no. 22, 24, and 25 of the Regulations mandate specific information that must be included on product labels to provide consumers with essential details about the product, its manufacturer, and its contents. Labels should include trade or brand names, trademarks, business names, manufacturer details, ingredients, net weight, country of manufacture, and dates of manufacture and expiry.

Furthermore, if the label is not provided in English or Dzongkha, the translation of labels must be available. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) states that “Consumers have a right to expect that the foods they purchase and consume will be safe and of high quality.” Section 4 of the CPA states that the consumer has the right to protection of their lives, health, and safety in the consumption of goods and services.

It is time that consumer rights to fair pricing and the right to information on imported food products are strictly enforced to protect consumers, rather than leaving it up to the market-the right to healthy food. Consumers have the right to know what these products which are not labelled in English.


Sonam Tshering

Lawyer, Thimphu

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are author’s own.