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POST TIME: 15 March, 2019 12:39:08 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 15 March, 2019 10:02:00 AM
Consumers getting increasingly aware of their rights
World Consumer Rights Day today
FAISAL MAHMUD, Dhaka

Consumers getting increasingly 
aware of their rights

Afif Sarkar instantaneously remembered a Facebook post he read a few days back when he saw the bill that had arrived in a leather folder at an upscale restaurant in Dhaka. “They charged Tk. 25 for a bottle of water whose maximum retail price is Tk. 15. I read in Facebook that there is scope of getting redressal if I complain against such overcharging,” said Afif, a young Barrister. “So, I took out my phone and snapped a photo of the bill.” He lodged a complaint with the Directorate of National Consumers Rights Protection (DNCRP) and got a date for hearing a week later.

“At the hearing, the owner of the restaurant came. He was initially fined Tk. 30,000 for his overcharging, but settled on paying Tk. 5,000 after much negotiation and request. I got 1,250 from the court as the plaintiff receives 25 per cent of the fines imposed,” Afif told The Independent.

The problem is, said Afif, most of the people frequently overlook being charged extra for products, or are provided with low quality goods or services at markets, fearing the hassle and embarrassment that comes with a confrontation, or simply because they are ignorant of their rights as consumers.

“I want to say to them — fear no more, because now there is an effective solution. You can actually complain to a respective authority for such misdeeds,” he said.

In the last few years, increasing number of people like Afif are getting aware of their rights as a consumer. Their complaints to the appropriate place become the first step of redressal that a customer can take for the protection of his/her rights.

Besides, in the time of the internet and social media, consumer complaints and feedback have more power than ever, as these have the scope of getting viral and ruining the most important aspect of a business - reputation.

According to the data of the DNCRP, in the first eight months of the fiscal

2018-19, a total of 5,860 complaints from consumers were lodged with the directorate. The DNCRP has resolved about 70 per cent of the complaints and imposed a fine of Tk. 64,52,500 on different business entities.

In the last fiscal of 2017-18, the total of number of resolved complaints was 9,019. The DNCRP imposed a fine of Tk. 1,58,88,000 on different business entities in resolving those complaints. In 2016-17, the respective numbers were 6,140 and Tk. 62,06,700.

Talking to The Independent, Harun-uz-Zaman Bhuiyah, director (operations) of the DNCRP, said the operation of the directorate was started back in 2010. “In the first three years (fiscal year), we received 179 complaints. But the number of complaints started to pick up since 2014,” he added.

“I believe, there is an increased awareness among a large number of customers now. Although I wouldn’t say that all of the consumers are aware of their rights. We still need to heavily conduct our awareness programme,” he said.

Harun said most of the complaints from customers are regarding the quality of consumer goods, their expiration dates and higher prices.  Giving a ball-park figure, he said nearly seven in every 10 complaints about consumer rights are regarding prices higher than the MRP (Maximum Retail Price) charged on soft drinks and water bottles in most of Dhaka’s cafes and restaurants.

He also said filing a complaint is not at all difficult. A complaint form has been uploaded in the website of the DNCRP. If anyone wants to complain, he/she will need to have a copy of the bill and other related documents, such as photographs of the actual price of the good which was purchased by the consumer.

Consumers can also make phone calls to the National Consumers Complaint Center by dialing 8801777-753668, or email them at nccc@dncrp.gov.bd.

“When a complaint is filed, we assign our officers to check on the merits of the complaint. Then we fix a hearing date and call both the parties. We try to dispose of any complaints as quickly as possible,” Harun noted.

Shafiqul Islam Laskar, director general of the DNCRP, said until 2009, 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 Bangladesh.

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.

“The Consumer Rights Protection Act, 2009 was enacted by the government in April 2009 to ensure consumer protection by realising the consumer’s right to quality goods and services at fair prices,” said Shafiqul.

“I believe after enactment of the Act, a consumer in Bangladesh has been empowered. The social media also plays an important role in building awareness among consumers,” he added.


IK