The empowering article

Shantonu Sayor reveals how awareness about the Consumer’s Right Protection Act is building the confidence of consumers

Faruq Azam, a government employee, bought a cosmetics product from a city chain shop. He was charged with an additional Taka 36 along with the labelled maximum retail price (MRP). As he reacted about the total price, the shop officials said they have nothing to do about the matter. Azam then filed a complaint with the Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection and later also received Tk 2,500 as 25 per cent retribution.

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Since the consumer’s right protection act became effective in 2009, 82 per cent of the complaints have been filed under article 40 which authorities say is a result of the nature of the dishonest businessmen adding that people take shelter of the article 40 for its fruitful resolution.

Article 40 on punishment for selling goods, medicine or service at higher price than fixed one reads, ‘If any person sells or offers to sell any goods, medicine or service at a price higher than the price fixed under any Act or rules, he shall be punished with imprisonment for a term not exceeding 1 (one) year, or with fine not exceeding Taka 50 (fifty) thousands, or with both.’

According to the act, any consumer can file a complaint if the person faces any anti-consumer rights practices. If the complaint is justified after investigation, the consumer will immediately be given 25 per cent of the amount charged as penalty.

After the act became effective, a total of 2,563 written complaints have been made till December 2016. Manzur Morshed Chowdhury, director of the Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection, says, ‘The filed complaints have found products which are overpriced despite the MRP written on them. Most fast food shops have been found to overcharge water bottles and soft drinks for instance charging Tk 30 for a bottle of water worth Tk 15.’

Golam Rahman, the chairman of the Consumer’s Association of Bangladesh (CAB), says, ‘It can be clearly understood that the customers are being financially affected from the overpricing and thus they are filing complaints. Article 40 can be easily accessed due to the MRP written in the products. However, the rights of consumers will be better ensured when complaints will come in regard to all the articles. It needs to be appreciated that people are now aware of their rights and are dedicated at ensuring them.’

Additionally, 14 per cent of the complaints have been made under section 45 of the act which reads, ‘If any person does not sell or deliver properly any goods or service promised in consideration of money, he shall be punished with imprisonment for a term not exceeding 1 (one) year, or with fine not exceeding Taka 50 (fifty) thousands, or with both.’

As of December 2016, 96 per cent of the complaints have been settled. 639 people have received 25 per cent of the compensation which amounts to a total of Taka 10,08,800.

Md Shafiqul Islam Laskar, director general of the directorate, says, ‘90 per cent of the complaints under article 40 has been filed for overpriced water and soft drinks. These two products have high demands and hence the high number of complaints.’

Lashkar adds, ‘Complaints in regard to other articles are also slowly on the rise. We are running campaigns at union levels while involving students, so that more families can be aware of the consumer’s rights protection act.’

Masum Arefin, assistant director of the directorate informs that if a person is willing to file a complaint under this act, then a person needs to file a written complaint within 30 days of the incident. One has to provide his/her contact details and the filing can also be done through fax, email, SMS or by filling the prescribed form from the directorate’s website.

Both the parties will receive letters within seven days and investigation will be carried out in presence of the parties. Normally a complaint is sorted within two weeks, while anything related to chemical test might need longer time for disposal.

Some matters are also settled with consent from both parties, as the officials inform. As proof, a person needs to have proper documents and receipt of the products.

The complaints can be filed if a product is priced more than the written price, if buyers are deceived with misleading advertisements, provide services of low standards, intentionally sell items of less weight than the customer is paying for, any shop not hanging the price list of products being offered, selling adulterated products, producing fake or illegal items and so on.