Launch of Consumer Protection Rules and Regulations at clock tower square yesterday

MoEA: Customers can now lodge a complaint, if they feel shopkeepers have overcharged them for a fake product.

To protect consumers from unfair trade practices and create awareness on consumer protection, the economic affairs ministry yesterday launched the Consumer Protection Rules and Regulations at the clock tower square in Thimphu.

The rules and regulations include rights and responsibilities of consumers, duties of service provider, manufacturer and suppliers, misleading, false representation and unfair trade practices, and administrative penalties, among others.

Economic affairs minister, Norbu Wangchuk, said the actors in growing economy are the business people and consumers. “We must ensure that the relationship that ensues out of the transaction between the consumers and the businesses are healthy, positive and good for themselves as well as the economy,” lyonpo said. “Good relationship between the consumers and businesses mean safe products and services, fair prices and correct information about the products and services.”

It is the responsibility of a service provider, manufacturer and supplier of goods, as per the rules and regulations to provide true and clear information to consumers regarding the products and services in the market, and refrain from indulging in unfair trade practices.

Deputy chief at the office of consumer protection (OCP), Jigme Dorji, said unfair trade practices include supply of inferior goods, misleading advertisement and false representation of goods.

A duplicate Nike shoe being sold at the cost of an original one and saying the shoe is of the brand is a false representation of goods, Jigme Dorji said.

“The duplicate product has to be sold at the cost according to its quality,” he said. “Sellers shouldn’t charge the price of an original brand.”

Executive director of OCP, Sonam Tenzin, said there would be practical difficulties in implementing the rules and regulations.  The office plans to first implement the law among big business houses, and then to the middle and small businesses in phases.

The rule states that sellers are required to produce a receipt if consumers buy goods worth Nu 100 and more, and also ensure that every product and services for sale should have a price tag.

Sonam Tenzin said, not having a price tag for the goods and services was a potential area for unfair trade practices ,since there was an opportunity for the shopkeeper to charge a high price for their products.

To have the rights of the consumers upheld by the businesses, a dispute settlement committee has also been set up in the four thromdes of Thimphu, Phuntsholing, Samdrupjongkhar and Gelephu.  Each committee will have three members serving for three years.

Any aggrieved consumer can lodge a complaint to the OCP or to a consumer advocate in the regional trade and industry office (RTIO).  Dispute settlement mandate in gewogs has been given to gups.  Any consumer dispute, which is criminal in nature, will be forwarded to the courts.

RTIO will monitor if sellers are abiding by the rules and regulations.

Any violation of the Act by a service provider, manufacturer and supplier will be liable to pay a fine equivalent to the value of the goods or services in question.  Repetition of the offence and failure to pay the fine or rectify the false and misleading representation may lead to cancellation of business license.

Lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk said it was important that businesses and consumers are made aware of the provisions of the act.  The Consumer Protection Act was enacted in 2012 and to implement the act, the OCP was established last year.

By Dechen Tshomo