Following many complaints from consumers, the Office of Consumer Protection (OCP) recently imposed fines on 46 entities and made 59 entities rectify unfair trade practices in the same month.

OCP received 16 complaints last month alone which were related to, among others, faulty products, service terms and condition commitment failure, unethical trade practices and price manipulation.

As oil prices continue to rise, traders and shopkeepers see it as an opportunity to make some extra money and load the rise on customers who are helpless. While price rise can’t be helped in the face of prevailing global situations like the war in Ukraine, it is the responsibility of the Office of Consumer Protection as the statutory agency under MoEA with the mandated to promote and protect the economic interest and safety of the consumers, raise awareness on consumers’ rights and responsibilities, and ensure redressal of their grievances, to monitor unfair price manipulation in the market.

The office is guided by the vision to create well-informed consumers who are protected by a fair trading system and education programme. Often, however, we can’t and do not act until we receive “official” complaints.

While the prices of food items have increased significantly, taxi drivers have their own rates. And, of course, they conveniently blame it on the rising fuel price. And seeing it as an opportunity, landlords also quickly increase rents. In a place like Thimphu, the average Bhutanese, who get by with just salary income, are faced between a rock and a hard place.

In Bhutan, consumer protection is one of the emerging issues, which is why an efficient redress system is vitally important besides advancing the social and economic welfare of consumers. That’s why regular advocacy programmes are important.

But then, perhaps, more importantly, the responsibility to address such unfair and corrupt practices falls on the general public. If we tolerate such trends, stopping such practices will become a culture among the Bhutanese and will be challenging redress in the not-too-distant future.

That’s why complaints and prompt responses from OCP are much appreciated. After addressing the complaints, the office was quick to inform general consumers to make informed purchase decisions and carry out due diligence before any purchase. It is, so, upon consumers to hold those who are involved in unfair trade practices responsible and accountable.