Consumer rights and protection.

We say that our society has become market driven and customer dictates in the end. Slogans regarding customer care and service are often displayed at various business establishments. Yet what is the actual culture in Sri Lanka? Do you think that the rights of consumers are protected adequately? Price marking and expiry dates are closely watched by authorities. But is this sufficient to maintain the rights of consumers with regard to standards of quality of a product or service? Obviously not. What has been your experience?

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  • Shokku Masta says:

    Consumer rights like many other rights will also demand an informed public who will also demand higher standards, qualities and performance and can enforce that in the market place. Government, private sector, not for profit sector, consumer groups all have to be active and vigilant in this process. The “field” is not level, information on products is not equally available. Harmful effect of a product is conveyed of figured out, even in countries that have more capacity than Sri Lanka, years after the fact. Oops, that die in the food was bad, that oil was contaminated.. this is a complex area and one thing is clear, private companies are not likely to police themselves to ensure consumer protection.

    Laws and regulations are important, equally important is the constant oversight reference to what is going on, how the laws are circumvented, dangerous substances introduced into the food chain, into the environment. If it is ignorance of effects it is one thing but when information is suppressed, as in the case of many giant corps and their products, like tobacco or alcohol, or some food additives, or fast foods with high salt or sugar content then we have problems. Where science is only broadly indicative, no human studies only lab rats, then people might take decisions not aware of the risks.

    Some consumer items are not intrinsically dangerous but in some situations they are, e.g. motor vehicles driven dangerously by ill-trained persons on roads used by pedestrians not motorized vehicles.

    Stuff that is considered safe subject to careful study turns out to have problems, or linked with problems, teflon in non-stick cookware.. After all everything is dangerous to some degree, we are constantly informing ourselves about these things.. science and media and politics and religion play roles is seeing that we don’t get too frightened and stop eating new things simply because we don’t know or just go for it for the same reason,

    Just try it, yes, just try it, here!! Just do it!!

    OK if it is so good why advertise?! Ah haa it is only information! Then why is that woman undressing what has that got to do with it? I was looking for a breakfast cereal! So, just look at the pictures while you eat, our brand is best.. I am feeling bad already!!

  • Jagath Bandara says:

    Consumer rights and protection is one of the arbitrary themes under surging global capitalism. It is one of the most contentious but hidden issue in our age. One thing to be clarified before address the issue. By nature, the term consumer rights and protection obfuscate its actual meaning. Here, are we talking only about products and goods what we consume materially? What about services, and mainly other forms of consumptions such as entertaining and ideologies. This is also worth to be understood conceptually.

    Consumer rights cannot be reached without support of three factors. First, consumer must have self conscious of what they consume. It is more than checking expiry date or brand name. It is kind of discipline to be invested what we consume. Second, each individual must act together at group or movement level, in order to push government and regulatory authorities to draw and evaluate policies relevance to consumer rights and press companies and sellers to stick into policies as well as laws and regulations. Third, at structural level, practice of good governance is required to support the law and order relate to the consumer rights and protections. Thus, Consumer rights and protection is not merely an act but it is a political act needed to be driven with conscious effort.

  • admin says:

    Another area we all should address is the size of packaging on the retailer shelf. We see huge packets of consumer goods where only half of the package is actually filled with the product. The consumer is given the impression that the package contains a lot. The consumer is actually paying for more packaging material. It is high time that the Consumer Rights Associations and Department of Consumer Protection/ Consumer Rights Authority address this issue and take necessary action. The other area is advertising promises we see in the media which needs regulation. But where do we go from here? How do we protect our rights? How can the consumer be empowered ?

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  • Shokku Masta says:

    What about the area of food marketing for children.. we have products of questionable nutritional value being marketed as enhancing cognition, improving stamina. I doubt if there is a shred of evidence supported by experiments if this is indeed true. Individual consumers do not have the “power” to challenge these assertions and practices.. collective action is needed and has to be organized. I know that there are no simple remedies that can be obained off the shelf and put in place in Sri Lanka. Out of convenience many a parent places a child in front of the TV and unwittingly helps create this consumer person whose wants are partly defined by messages designed to promote some things. Logos and packages also sere purposes. If the material is expensive in making and or in disposing we would expect that there is some reflection of this in the cost, provided we have a system that keeps this in focus. Often the disposal of the waste associated with consumption is not appropriately priced. Is that not what we are discussing in the Global Warming fora? Somewhere in all of this is also a crisis of some of the systems that we have created, “free markets” a largely misunderstood institution, resting on a belief system. Even in western medicine there is a very important concept of the placebo effect.. the notion of medicine even if not a medicament has a positive measurable medical effect.

    Anyway, to prevent “wastage” we may need collective effort to ensure that the convenience of excess wrapping, over engineered containers is related to full costs of disposal. A few plastic bags was OK, people recycled them. when there a deluge, a flood of them they adorn fences, cover drains, clog waterways and by itself is a very constly proposition to deal with.

    Where is the self awareness of various groups in this. We saw that some super markets charged for sacks and bags, people could bring their own. Once upon a time before plastic, newsprint was faithfully collected and recycled, everything was wrapped in it, there were markets for them. There still are. Bu for many other items, paper, plastic, pins the wrapping is another product that the consumer buys. So if we don’t want it, what can we do.. In some cases we can say, I don’t want the box, in other cases we may not be able to. Sometimes we may need the packing material to convey the item from here to there. But think of products like electronic books, purchase is paperless, wrapping less, item is wrapping less. Instead there are messages order, confirmation, receipt. One part of the wrapping issue is related to potability protection.. and go a little overboard we have the package that needs a chisel and a hammer or a chainsaw to open and get at a fragile item enclosed within!!!

    So, product designers, packaging experts, material producers, marketeers, consumers, policy makers have to be engaged in a regular dialogue to discuss issues, consequences ill effects, benefits costs.

    Have you noticed that no retailer has tried to bubble wrap coconuts or put them in plastic containers? Do you wonder why? Maybe the wrapping may cost a significant amount compared to the coconut it self? Do only fancy expensive goods get nice wrapping? What about the art of presentation and wrapping .. Japanese items, Roman florists? Maybe it s a silli silli question ne’?

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  • Asela Bandara says:

    Realy government authorities only can not do all the things for consumer protection. There should be 50% of consumers participation. In Sri Lanka i have experience about this thing. I am still working in consumer protection organization in Sri Lanka. If u are interested u can join with us or if u like we can join with u for consumer education. I have experience that sri lankan consumers have low knowledge abouyt consumer protection.

    Asela Bandara

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    • admin says:

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      It would be great if you would express your views about the subject as well
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    • admin says:

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      Please do contribute by giving your view on the subject too
      Have a great day

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