“Two weeks ago I went to a renowned restaurant in Dhanmondi with one of my friends. Besides all other food items we took a 500ml bottle of mineral water. While paying bill I noticed that the restaurant authority is charging 20 taka for the water bottle though the original price was Tk. 15. Immediately I asked why they were charging extra money? The person who was receiving bill replied that they always sell half-litre water bottle for Tk. 20 and no one complains for that! When I raised objection against this acquisitiveness, he along with others staffs misbehaved with me and forced me to leave the restaurant! I completely lost my words and became frustrated to see their greedy attitude. Despite knowing that what they did was wrong and what I said was right, how could they be so immoral! I returned home with the money receipt. After a couple of days I filed a complaint online to the office of the Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection against the restaurant authority. Ten days later, yesterday, the DNCRP made response to my complaint and called me to visit their office next day. Today, they sat with both the parties and after listening everything according to the clause 40 of the Consumer Rights Protection Act they fined the restaurant authority Tk. 50,000. Initially the restaurant owner pleaded me to withdraw the complaint, which I didn’t. Due to the repeated requests of him when I personally appealed to the DNCRP to review the matter, only then they reduced the fine to Tk. 20,000. And as according to the law complainant gets 25% of the total fine, I received Tk. 5,000 after signing an acknowledgement form! I would like to thank the Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection for their quick action and request you all to inform them if any trader cheats with you” – this is how Tasvirul Haq Tonu shared his mixed experience of initial annoyance and consequential satisfaction through a facebook post.
Harassment of consumers by a section of unscrupulous traders is a common incident in Bangladesh but there are very few people like Tonu who seriously protest against unethical practice of the gluttonous traders and file complaint. It is because most of the consumers of our country are not aware of their rights and they even don’t know where to go and how to file complaint if they face any unexpected situation due to the avarice of the traders. As traders hardly need to face punishment for their fraudulent activities, the incidents of swindling money out of the customers’ pockets are on the rise. For reducing the number of such malpractice the government needs to scrutinise the loopholes of the existing laws and direct their officials to implement them strictly. Besides, a movement involving all the citizens to create mass awareness about the consumer rights and laws regarding it should be commenced.
What Are Consumer Rights?
The issue of consumer rights is not much familiar because of the continuous violation of consumer rights and inaction of the concerned authorities against such practice though all consumers have rights to access safe goods and quality services, to be treated fairly and offered effective solutions if things go wrong. These rights are protected by the state through some specific laws and are called consumer rights. One of the most widely accepted basic consumer rights is the right to safety. Consumers should be able to assume that the products they buy are reasonably safe. The second major right is the right to be informed. It means the right of the consumer to have sufficient information to weigh alternatives and remain safe from false and misleading claims in advertising and labeling practices. Another common right is the right to choose. Consumers should get competing goods and services that offer alternatives in terms of price, quality, and service. An increasingly recognised right is the right to get justice. It ensures that the government will take heed of the concerns of consumers and will protect their interests by forming and implementing laws.
What Do We Mean By Consumer Rights Protection?
Consumer protection, in the broader sense, refers to the laws and regulations that define when consumers’ rights are violated or not protected. According to the Consumers Rights Protection Act (CRPA), 2009, consumer rights are violated when traders sell any goods, medicine or service at a higher price than the fixed price. It also considers selling adulterated goods or medicine knowingly, offering to sell goods containing any ingredient which is extremely injurious to human health and the mixing of which with any food item is prohibited, deceiving consumers by false advertisement, delivering less than the offered weight, length, amount to the consumers, using stone or any other weight measuring instrument and gauge or any other length measuring instrument that shows goods more than the actual weight or length while selling anything, manufacturing any fake goods or medicine and selling goods or medicine the date of which has expired, as anti-consumer rights practices.
Existing Laws To Protect Consumer Rights
Until 2009, when a unified consumer Act did not exist, about 40 different pieces of legislation could be attributed as forming the legal regime in the field of consumer protection regulating different goods and services in the country. Some notable laws include the Bangladesh Standard Testing Institute (BSTI) Ordinance, 1985, the Control of Essential Commodities Act, 1956, the Pure Foods Ordinance, 1959, the Sale of Goods Act, 1930, the Standards of Weights and Measures Ordinance, 1982, and the Accreditation Board Act, 2006. However, there was no unified and effective machinery for the enforcement of these legislative measures and thus the consumers did not enjoy statutory rights to seek redress of their grievances arising out of the violation of the provisions of these laws. The CRPA, 2009, provides protection of consumer rights and prevents any acts against consumer rights and interests. The Act enjoins state organs to punish the offenses of economic operators who violate consumer rights and interests. It provides for various actions to be taken by the respective ministries against the products or services that are likely to induce grave dangers.
Loopholes Of The Law
A significant drawback of the CRPA, 2009, is that it is mostly an administrative one and does not have a rights-based, bottom-up approach like other consumer protection laws around the world. Redress is one of the very important rights which include the right to receive compensation for misrepresentation of shoddy goods or unsatisfactory services and the availability of acceptable forms of legal aid or redress for small claims wherever necessary. The Bangladeshi Act provides only for redress in the usual criminal and civil courts. As per the CRPA 2009, no complaint can be entertained by the Court without endorsement of the Director General of the Consumer Rights Protection Department. According to the present law, after receipt of a complaint, the Director General may allow the complaint to be proceeded with or rejected but in case of rejection there should have a provision of giving opportunity of being heard to the complaint. There should be specific time limit within which complaint shall ordinarily be decided and of course, the time limit of 30 days for filing complaint should be extended. The punishment for the act against the consumer rights, which is maximum three years of imprisonment or as fine of fifty thousand to two lacs taka, is not sufficient.
Ways To File A Complaint
A consumer is entitled to lodge complaint with the Consumer Rights Protection Department for any violation of the Act. A consumer although barred from filing a direct complaint to the police station under the Consumer Rights Protection Act, 2009, but can file a case to the Police Station under other Laws. You can file complaint to the District Magistrate of your district. Besides, you can file your complaint to the Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection, 1 Karwan Bazaar, (TCB Bhaban, 7th floor), Dhaka, phone: +88028189425. National Consumers’ Complaint Center (TCB Bhaban, 8th floor, 1 Karwan Bazaar, Dhaka, phone: 0177753668, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org) is also ready to accept your complaint. And for the consumers of divisional cities there are divisional offices of National Consumer Rights Protection in Chattogram, Rajshahi, Khulna, Barishal, Sylhet and Rangpur. To know the address and phone number of these offices and even to file complaint online you can visit http://dncrp.portal.gov.bd/.
Different laws on the same subject, different types of punishments for the same offence under different laws, delay in proceedings, and lack of monitoring mechanism have been observed by experts as potential impediments to protect consumer rights in Bangladesh. The government should sincerely act to address the loopholes of the existing laws and update them to protect the rights of the consumers which are guaranteed by our constitution. Every citizen of the country is a consumer. But most of them don’t protest when a trader cheats him/her while selling a product. Sometimes, scarcity of time and lack of awareness are responsible for their reluctant attitude. But in maximum cases, their mentality to accept everything without spending any word or taking any action against the greedy traders encourages such unethical practice. And it ultimately puts pressure on the consumers who need to suffer for additional expenditure. Under such circumstances there is no alternative to developing mass awareness and creating combined protest (from all corners) against the violation of laws to establish consumer rights in a meaningful way.