Significance of The Consumers’ Right Protection Act 2009

- Fabliha Afia

Consumer-rights

Published On - May 6, 2018 [Vol. 8, Jan - Jun, 2018]

Abstract This article contains a critical evaluation of The Consumers’ Right Protection Act 2009. The focus is on the adequacy of protection of consumer rights under this enactment. The issue will be analysed by referring to the Act and also resolved case examples.  Through this analysis, the aim is to identify the effectiveness of the 2009 Act.

 1. Introduction

Consumption is the end of all economic activity.[1] Purchase of food, medicine, utilities, toys, clothing, obtaining banking service, heath care service, transport service, etc, almost every daily activity falls within the concept of consumption. The practicality of this concept is widespread. Thus to protect the interest of consumers at large, consumer rights have gained particular significance over the years.

1.1. Historical background

“Caveat Emptor” (let the buyer beware) is a principle of consumer law, which previously had the tendency of exempting the seller from liability. The then prevailing mindset was that, it was the responsibility of the ‘buyer’ to be aware and evaluate the goods and service in question. [2] But over the decades, another competing internationally recognised principle named “Caveat Venditor” has evolved which means ‘let the seller beware’. With time consciousness grew about the difficulties of the buyer to properly examine the goods and service.

This shift can be evaluated with an example. For instance, if anyone needs to buy a Mobile, s/he generally cannot examine the product before purchasing it except for the virtual representation. It is not reasonable to expect an ordinary buyer to understand and examine the nano-technology inside. So, if the seller changes the internal materials, the product will not be the same and in this situation, the buyer would be deceived and exploited from getting the claimed good. Thus intervention of expert knowledge is required to verify and educate the ordinary consumers.[3] Hence the burden of responsibility has gradually shifted on the seller. This is the very principle of Caveat Venditor, that the ‘seller and service provider’ must be conscious and must endure the responsibility for the goods and service in question.[4] The principle is now the standard that is followed.[5]

1.2. Importance of consumer protection

The concept of consumer protection is important. Internationally consumer protective aims have been recognised as fundamental rights, as early in 1973.[6] Since 1983, every year March 15 is observed as ‘World Consumer Rights Day’. The annual celebration of the consumer movement is a means of raising global awareness about consumer rights and needs; it is a chance to demand that the rights of all consumers are respected and protected; and to protest against market abuses and social injustices which undermine those rights.[7]

Such International recognition and celebration of Consumer Rights Day signifies the importance of consumer rights protection. Thus to adequately protect the interest of consumers, effective legal mechanism is required.

In Bangladesh, there was no specific law on the protection of consumer’s right for a long time. The rights were protected through various enactments. However the criticisms were that the law was fragmented and also provided inadequate consumer protection.[8] After prolonged advocacy and lobbying by the Consumer Association of Bangladesh[9]( a non-governmental voluntary organisation), with the Government and the policy makers, a draft Consumers Protection Law was formulated. In 2008 Care-taker Government passed an Ordinance in this regard. This Ordinance however was later disregarded and on 6th April, 2009 the Government finally enacted the long awaited Consumer Rights Protection Act 2009.[10]

2. The Consumers’ Right Protection Act (CRPA) 2009

The Consumers’ Right Protection Act 2009[11] is a consumer protection specific enactment. It was enacted to ensure adequate consumer right protection.  To fulfil and implement the objectives of this Act, a National Consumer Right Protection Council has been established[12]. Functions of the Council include formulation of policy on consumer protection, etc.[13] The performance and execution of decisions by the Council is assisted by a Directorate called the Directorate of National Consumers’ Right Protection (DNCRP).[14] DNCRP is a quasi-judicial body with investigatory, hearing and remedial powers. Complaints of anti-consumer activity can be directly made to this body.[15] To ensure such protection throughout the country, the CRPA 2009 has also created a district committee in every district named District Consumers’ Right Protection Committee.[16] Functions of the District committee include compliance with the direction of the Council, raising awareness, etc.[17] Upazilla and Union Committees may also be constituted under the Act for similar purpose.[18]

2.1. Who is a consumer

 According to s.2(19) of CRPA 2009, consumer means “any person:
(a) who, without resale or commercial purpose ;
(i) buys any goods for a consideration which has been paid or promised to be paid;
(ii) buys any goods for a consideration which has been partly paid and partly promised; or

(iii) buys any goods for a consideration under any system of deferred payment or instalment basis;

(b) who uses any goods bought under clause (a) with the consent of the buyer;

(c) who buys any goods and uses it commercially for the purpose of earning his livelihood by means of self-employment;

(d) who,
(i) hires or in any other means avails of any service for a consideration which has been paid or promised to be paid; or
(ii) hires or in any other means avails of any service for a consideration which has been partly paid and partly promised; or
(iii) hires or in any other means avails of any service for a consideration under any system of deferred payment or instalment basis; or

(e) who enjoys any service under clause (d), with the consent of the person who hires or avails it.”[19]

For the purpose of this Act, service means “transport, telecommunication, water supply, drainage, fuel, gas, electricity, construction, residential hotel and restaurant and health services, which is made available to its users in exchange of price but does not include the services rendered free of cost.”[20]
Thus in lay words consumer is someone who buys goods or avails service for consideration.

2.2. Rights of a consumer

Consumers receive protection under this Act from ‘anti-consumer’ activities. According to s.2(20), anti-consumer right practice means:
“(a) to sell or offer to sell any goods, medicine or service at a higher price than the fixed price under any Act or rules;
(b) to sell or offer to sell adulterated goods or medicine knowingly;
(c) to sell or offer to sell any goods containing any ingredient which is extremely injurious to human health and the mixing of which with any food item is prohibited under any Act or rules;

(d) to deceive consumers by untrue or false advertisement for the purpose of selling any goods or service;

(e) not to sell or deliver properly any goods or services promised to sell or deliver in consideration of money;

(f) to sell or deliver less quantity of goods than the weight offered to the consumers while delivering or selling any goods;

(g) to show more than the actual weight by the weight stone or any other weight measuring instrument used for measuring weight in selling or delivering goods in a commercial enterprise;

(h) to sell or deliver less quantity of goods than the promised amount while delivering or selling any goods;

(i) to show more than the actual length by the length measuring gauge or anything else used for measuring length in selling or delivering goods in a commercial enterprise;

(j) to make or manufacture any fake goods or medicine;

(k) to sell or offer to sell goods or medicine the date of which has expired; or

(l) to do an act which may endanger life or security of the consumer and which is prohibited by any Act or rules.”[21]

Thus the enactment provides protection from 12 different anti-consumer activities. The rights of a consumer will be breached in situations such as higher price charged than that fixed, adulterated food or medicine, contaminated food, false advertisement, non-delivery of goods or service, less or false quantity, false length of goods, fake goods or medicine, passage of expiry date, and acts endangering life or security.

2.3. Complaint procedure

If there is any anti-consumer practice, complaints can be filed by consumers or any person to the Director General[22] or any person so authorised by the Directorate[23] within 30 days of the incident.[24] The complaint must be in writing.[25] A complaint can be filed simply by sending an email with evidence attached.[26] Upon receipt of such a complaint, it will be investigated immediately by the authority.[27] If the complaint is proved to be true, the Director General or any officer authorised by him may, in his administrative action, impose fine upon the convicted person or body.[28] In case of imposition of fine, 25% of such realised fine will immediately be awarded to the complainant concerned.[29]

DNCRP may also initiate independent investigation with remedial powers of imposition of fine, trade license cancellation, or suspension of commercial functions (permanently or temporarily).[30]

3. Case examples

Informations of resolved complaints can be found on DNCRP’s Official Facebook page[31]and occasionally on the local newspapers.

3.1. Award for false advertisement

One such reported case is as follows. DNCRP imposed a fine of 250,000 BDT on the mobile network operator Grameenphone (GP), for false advertisement. The fact of the case is that the customer purchased a 1 GB internet package, at a cost of 275 BDT. According to the offer, the package would include 2 GB bonus data active for 28 days. Although GP mentioned the price of the package to be 275 BDT, but the company charged the consumer 325.74 BDT while purchasing it. The consumer also received a message from GP stating that the bonus data would expire within seven days and that it could only be used between 2 am to 12 pm. Thus there were a few variances from the initial advertisement. Upon investigation and hearing, this conduct was deemed anti-consumer and the complainant was awarded 62,500 BDT, which was 25% of the total fine.[32]

3.2. Award for breach of service

In another case, DNCRP fined mobile network operator Robi Axiata Limited 410,000 BDT for deceiving subscribers.

The fact is that, a subscriber complained to the DNCRP that Robi offered him a package where it promised to provide 1.5 GB of internet data for 98 BDT to be valid for 28 days. However, after the purchase only 1 GB internet data was provided for 5 days.

Md Saiful, another subscriber, filed a complaint where he said that he bought 50 MB internet data for 28 BDT, as part of a package to watch Bangla dramas. In this instance, Robi provided the customer with invalid links and the consumer could not avail the service.

Al Amin, the third subscriber, filed a complaint that he could not unsubscribe to a value added service, which provided him with health tips in exchange of 2 BDT per day.

Upon hearing of the complaints the authority fined the mobile operator 250,000 BDT for the first complaint; 150,000 BDT for the second and 10,000 BDT for the third complaint.[33]

3.3. Award for increased price

Another recent case that made the newspaper is that of a consumer who was charged 5 BDT extra for a water bottle at a restaurant. Upon investigation, DNCRP concluded that the conduct was anti-consumer and the restaurant was fined 5,000 BDT. [34]

Regularly the DNCRP’s Facebook page is updated with such success stories against anti-consumer activities.[35] According to the Director General of the DNCRP, the number of complaints received in 2017 till August was over 6,000. Whereas, previously in 2015 the complaint wing received only 225 complaints and in 2016, the number of complaints received were 1622. This reflects the increasing awareness of consumer rights.[36]

4. Conclusion

To provide better consumer protection and easier access to justice, Consumers’ Right Protection Act 2009 was enacted. Implementation of the law by DNCRP is raising awareness and also successfully providing consumer protection in many aspects. In this light, The Consumers’ Right Protection Act 2009 and DNCRP’s implementation of the law is commendable and surely can be considered significant.

[1] Ahamuduzzaman & Syeda Shamsia Husain, Consumer Protection Law (2nd edn, Law Book Company 2011) 17

[2] ibid. p. 118

[3] Ahamuduzzaman & Syeda Shamsia Husain, Consumer Protection Law (2nd edn, Law Book Company 2011) 17

[4] Upal Aditya Oikya, ‘Protecting Consumer Rights’ The Daily Star (Dhaka, 18 July 2017) <http://www.thedailystar.net/law-our-rights/protecting-consumer-rights-1434604> accessed 10 October 2017

[5] Henry Kendall Ltd v William Lillico Ltd [1969] 2 AC 31

[6] Council of Europe. Res. No. 543/1973 <http://www.assembly.coe.int/nw/xml/XRef/Xref-XML2HTML-en.asp?fileid=15956&lang=en>; Official Journal of the European Community. No. C92, April 14, 1975 <http://eur-lex.europa.eu/search.html?qid=1509005121746&whOJ=NO_OJ%3D092,YEAR_OJ%3D1975&type=advanced&lang=en&SUBDOM_INIT=ALL_ALL&DB_COLL_OJ=oj-c> Accessed 29 October 2017

[7] Consumers International <http://www.consumersinternational.org/what-we-do/world-consumer-rights-day/> Accessed 29 October 2017

[8] Mizanur Rahman, ‘Consumer Protection in Bangladesh: Law and Practice’ (1994) Journal of Consumer Policy, 349-360

[9] Consumer Association of Bangladesh (CAB) is a non-governmental voluntary organisation, with a mission to empower people with knowledge and skills for the protection of their rights and interests as consumers. It came into effect on February 28, 1978. <http://www.consumerbd.org/> Accessed 10 October 2017

[10] Md. Abul Kalam Azad ‘Development of Consumer Protection Law in Bangladesh: An Empirical Study’ (2013) Journal of Business Studies, Vol. XXXIV, No.1, 12

[11] The Consumers’ Rights Protection Act 2009 <http://dncrp.portal.gov.bd/site/page/81410ae5-17d8-456c-8cff-4bbd8742d809/The-Consumers%E2%80%99-Right-Protection-Act,-2009-> Accessed 10 October 2017

[12] ibid. s.5

[13] ibid. s.8

[14] ibid. ss.18

[15] ibid. ss.23-36, 60, 70

[16] ibid. s.10

[17] ibid. s.11

[18] ibid. s.13

[19] ibid. s.2(19)

[20] ibid. s.2(22)

[21] ibid. s.2(20)

[22] Director General is the officer of the Directorate, who is appointed by the Government. Functions of the Director General include monitoring the standard of goods and taking necessary actions, etc. See The Consumers’ Rights Protection Act 2009, ss.20, 21, 23, 24-56, 70

[23] ibid. s.76

[24] ibid. s.60

[25] ibid. s.76(1)

[26] Directorate of National Consumers’ Right Protection <http://dncrp.dhakadiv.gov.bd/> Accessed 10 October 2017

[27] The Consumers’ Rights Protection Act 2009, s.76(2)

[28] ibid. s.76(3)

[29] ibid. s.76(4)

[30] ibid. s.70

[31] Official Facebook page of DNCRP <https://www.facebook.com/dncrp/> Accessed 10 October 2017

[32] Md Shahnawaz Khan Chandan, ‘Putting Consumers Last’ The Daily Star (Dhaka, 31 March 2017) <http://www.thedailystar.net/star-weekend/spotlight/putting-consumers-last-1383844> Accessed 11 October 2017

[33] Ishtiaq Husain & Ibrahim Hossain Ovi, ‘Robi fined Tk4.1 lakh for fraud’ Dhaka Tribune (Dhaka, 17 April 2017) <http://www.dhakatribune.com/business/2017/04/17/robi-fined-tk4-1-lakh-fraud/> Accessed 11 October 2017

[34] Afrose Jahan Chaity, ‘Restaurant fined Tk5,000 for cheating on the price of bottled water’ Dhaka Tribune (Dhaka, 06 August 2017) <http://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/dhaka/2017/08/06/restaurant-fined-tk5000-cheating-price-bottled-water/> Accessed 11 October 2017

[35] Official Facebook page of DNCRP <https://www.facebook.com/dncrp/> Accessed 11 October 2017

[36] Afrose Jahan Chaity, ‘Restaurant fined Tk5,000 for cheating on the price of bottled water’ Dhaka Tribune (Dhaka, 06 August 2017) <http://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/dhaka/2017/08/06/restaurant-fined-tk5000-cheating-price-bottled-water/> Accessed 11 October 2017

About The Writer

Article Author Image

Fabliha Afia

Barrister-at-Law, LL.M, University of Derby and LLB, University of London

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