The Protection of consumer rights is now a global agenda. Bangladesh, a third world country, is struggling to fulfill the basic needs of its population. “Socialism meaning economic and social justice”, a fundamental principle of the state policy and the constitution is yet to be implemented although 40-years have already passed from its independence. The world economic giants have enacted a series of Laws on different heading to meet the contemporary global demand on economic progress in one side and protection of the consumers from unfair, misleading and aggressive business propaganda on the other. The United Nations (UN), European Union (EU) and World Trade Organizations (WTO) have adopted a lot of rules to regulate trade and business of various products and services through import or export that impacts seriously on producer or manufacturer, supplier or distributor, seller and ultimately to the consumer. Bangladesh, a country with over population, has enacted “Consumer Rights Protection Act, 2009” to deal with the consumer affairs. The law is an addition to a number of around 61 relevant Laws dealing with the consumer rights and their protection mechanisms in a sporadic way.
According to the law and act, a person is required to perform certain conditions to be regarded as a consumer. Basically, the persons who use or consume products and services are known as consumers. Another way to explain- buyer, who is the final customers of products and services, is known as consumer. Under Consumer Right Protection Act, 2009 (CRPA, 2009) – “a person who buys goods to earn a livelihood by ‘self-employment’ (through in a commercial scale) also falls within the definition of a consumer. Before the enactment, a set of consumer rights were mentioned in different Laws in a fragmented way. In Bangladesh, consumers can be divided into two types: (i) service consumer and (ii) product consumer. Section-2 (19) of the Consumer Rights Protection Act, 2009 in Bangladesh states the definition of consumer as follows:
“Consumer” means any person who:
(a) Except for the purpose of resale and commercial purpose-
i) purchases any product by payment of a price or promise to pay off a price;
ii) Purchases any product by partly paid and partly promised; or
iii) Purchases any product with the promise of paying price in extended term or by installments;
(a) With the consent of the purchaser
(b) Uses the product purchased under clause;
(c) Who, after purchasing a product, uses it commercially for the purpose of making a living by self-employed
(d) Any person who:
(i) Hires or receives otherwise any service by payment or promises to pay the price;
ii) Hires or receives otherwise any service by part payment or promises to pay partly the price.
(iii) Hires or receives otherwise any service by paying the price in an extended term or by installments.
(d) With the consent
(e) Any person who consumes the service received under clause
The simplest way to explain consumers- consumers are those people on persons who buy or use or obtain or hire a permission to use any kinds products or services by offering a price, prompt or due or in installments.
Current Status of Legal Protection to Consumers in Bangladesh:
Legal protection to the consumers in Bangladesh is not adequate from the very beginning. But the most important thing is- few laws those are available are not enforced strictly to protect the consumers’ rights. In ‘fundamental principles and state policy’ part of the constitution rights of consumers are not discussed properly. In article 15 and 18 little information is found which talks about the provisions of consumer protection, like- health and food particularly.
In article 15:
It shall be a fundamental responsibility of the State to attain, through planned economic growth, a constant increase of productive forces and a steady improvement in the material and cultural standard of living of the people, with a view to securing to its citizens-
(a) The provision of the basic necessities of life, including food, clothing, shelter, education and medical care;
(b) The right to work, that is the right to guaranteed employment at a reasonable wage having regard to the quantity and quality of work;
(c) The right to reasonable rest, recreation and leisure; and the right to social security, that is to say to public assistance in cases of undeserved want arising from unemployment, illness or disablement, or suffered by widows or orphans or in old age, or in other such cases.
In article 18:
The State shall regard the raising of the level of nutrition and the improvement of public health as moving its primary duties, and in particular shall adopt effective measures to prevent the consumption, except for medical purposes or for such other purposes as may be prescribed by law, of alcoholic and other intoxicating drinks and drugs which are injurious to health.
Because it is acknowledged in ‘fundamental principles and state policy’ part not in ‘fundamental rights’ part, so most of them are not enforceable in the court room.
Consumer Right Protection Act in Bangladesh and Its Features:
Consumer protection laws are designed such a way that consumers of the market get all the information about the market and there is always a fair contest among the providers of the services. The laws are intended to prevent businesses to avoid any kind of cheating and improve the competition among the competitors so that consumers get the best product with the best service. These laws are made and enforced by the government which aims to protect the rights of consumers. Consumer rights gained importance in western countries in the last country. Subsequently it gained some ground in the developing countries as well. Almost all the countries now have consumer protection laws. Like other countries Bangladesh has also its consumer protection laws which known as Consumer rights protection act, 2009. The base of this act is consumer protection act 2000. Bangladesh parliament passed this act on 1st April 2009. It is aimed to protect consumers’ rights by preventing cheating on weight, price and quality of what they buy. Though the act is available but due to poverty, illiteracy, and unemployment, the people of Bangladesh face more consumer right problems. As a result like other rights, consumer rights remain the most ignored in this country. Because of lack of awareness many people do not check the expiry date is given or not, or expiry date par hose kina. They are not aware of the ingredients used to make the product are meet the standard or not. For these reasons in 2009 a seminar after the act is passed the … governor of Bangladesh Bank Dr. Atiur Rahman said: “The act and administrative structure of government are not sufficient to establish and protect the rights of the consumers; the people should have to be made aware about the act and have to be active.” To aware the people government introduced mobile court act which has the power to issue warrant of search and arrest the erring sellers.
There are some main features like- voluntary protection, institutional protection, statutory protection which must have to consider all of the time.
In Bangladesh, the consumers’ association if Bangladesh (CAB) works for the people to safeguard their rights and interests.
Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh and consumers right protection law provide safeguard and promote consumer rights of citizens so that consumers’ protection can be ensured. In article 18 of the constitution it is written that-
The state shall regard the raising of the level of the nutrition and the improvement of public health as among its primary duties, and in particular shall adopt effective measures to prevent the consumption, except for medical purposes or for such other purposes as may be prescribed by law, of alcoholic, and other intoxicating drinks and of drugs which are injurious to health.
Reasons behind to be cheated as a Consumer in Bangladesh:
Consumers of our country, most of the time, are not aware of the products completely those they are buying. As a result they get cheated. Consumers are not aware of their rights at all. If the consumer is wise during purchase / shopping, then they need not to return home with the worry that they may have been cheated. Some of the factors those help producers to do cheating with the consumers are discussed below-
Lack of awareness: Mass people of Bangladesh are unaware of their rights as a consumer. They do not know if the sellers cheat them, what they should do or where they should go. The reason behind is that consumers right is still a comparatively new concept to the people of Bangladesh.
Illiteracy: Most of the people in Bangladesh do not know about the existence of their rights as consumer. One of the main reasons for this is the lack of basic education. They cannot think up to the level that they can have such rights which would give them protection against adulteration of food, medicine etc. and the right to get proper service for which they are paying.
Economic Condition: We cannot avoid thinking of the economic condition which does not provide the atmosphere fit for consumers who are careful and demand quality.
Compromising Attitude: Sometimes we do compromise with the quality of goods bought because of our financial limitation. If we are incapable of paying the accurate price for the goods we buy, we cannot expect a high standard of quality for the same.
These are the small fractions of problem related to the consumers. However, there are other problems too. For example, in Bangladesh there is no separate court for consumers’ rights. Also the consumers lack proper authority to go to the court to bring action against those who violate the consumers’ rights. Therefore, the consumers need to rely upon the government officials concerned to bring any effective action against the alleged parties. Those alleged parties are also taking advantage of this vague situation. The corrupt businessmen tend to establish a good relationship with corrupt government officials who might help them to cheat and exploit the innocent consumers. Moreover, the BSTI (Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institute) is beset with lots of problems, like it does not have modern equipment and facilities for testing of many products. Also, the general consumers very often question the efficiency and integrity of the officials in the BSTI.
Why and How the Consumer Protection Law should enforce to provide consumers Best Quality of Services in Bangladesh:
Now-a-days, consumer rights include more sectors like banking, telecommunication etc. In Bangladesh a lot of laws (around 61 laws, list given below) are prevailing on consumer rights that aim to ensure safety products and security in service. In negative sense, a list of consumer rights can be found from the explanation of the term “Acts against consumer rights”.
Section 2 (20) of the Consumer Rights Protection Act, 2009 states that “Acts against consumer rights” mean:
a) Selling or offering to sale at a price higher than the price prescribed by any law or Rule for any product, medicine or service;
b) Knowingly selling or offering to sale any adulteries product or medicine;
c) Selling or offering to sale any product which has mixture of any object that is dangerously harmful for human health and mixture of such object with food is prohibited by any Act or Rule;
d) Deceiving people in general by false and untrue advertisement with the purpose of selling any product or service.
e) Not to supply properly the product or service as promised in exchange price;
f) To sale or supply in a weight lesser than that has been promised at the time of such sale or supply;
g) The scale or instruments of weighing using for sale or supply of any product of a business establishment showing over weight that in actual weight;
h) Using less than in promised weight in time of sale or supply of a product;
i) The using ribbon for measuring length in any business establishment showing more length than in actual size;
j) To make or manufacture any counterfeit product or medicine;
k) To sale or offer to sale any date expire product or medicine;
l) Commission of any act which is dangerous to the life or safety of the service consumer that is prohibited under any Act or Rule;
If we are able to prevent these above mentioned “acts against consumer rights” then the protection of consumers’ rights will be done automatically.
The Bangladeshi laws provides for the establishments of different organizations to protect the rights of the consumers including various Courts or Tribunals such as-
(i) Consumer Rights Protection Department;
(ii) National Consumer Rights Protection Council;
(iii) Special Tribunal;
(iv) Mobile Court (can work/ function under various Laws; It may be constituted by a special executive order);
(v) Drug Court;
(vi) Food Special Court;
(vii) Ordinary Criminal Courts;
(viii) Ordinary Civil Courts;
(ix) Marine Courts;
(xi) Claims Tribunal etc
There are also several laws available if those are enforced effectively then the consumer will get best quality of services from their desired products. Such as-
- The Consumer Rights Protection Act, 2009;
- Bangladesh Standard Testing Institute Ordinance (BSTI), 1985;
- The Customs Act, 1969;
- The Drug Control Ordinance, 1982;
- The Fish and Fish Products Ordinance, 1983;
- The Pure Food Ordinance, 1959;
- The Trade marks Act, 2009;
- The sale of goods Act, 1930;
- The Control of Essential Commodities Act, 1956;
- The Medical and Dental Council Act, 1980;
- The Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission Act, 2003;
- The Bangladesh Telecommunication Act, 2001;
- The Right to Information Act, 2009;
- The Food (Special Courts) Act, 1956;
- The Mobile Court Ordinance, 2007 (now repealed);
- The Iodine Deficiency Disorders Prevention Act, 1989;
- The Standards of Weights and Measures Ordinance (Amendment) Act,2001;
- The Import of Goods (Price Equalization Surcharge) Act, 1967; etc.
How Enforcement of Consumer Protection Law helps Economy to run Properly:
Economic growth or economic prosperity of a country largely or mainly depends on its people’s contribution. People means consumers, those consume or use different kind of products and services or commodities. Consumption of these commodities is not free of cost. Consumers have to spend a lot of money or use a lot of money to fulfill their desired needs and wants. These money contribute to the country’s gross domestic product or GDP. According to economics, normal distribution of GDP of a country is-
“Gross domestic product (GDP) is the market value of all final goods and services produced within a country in a given period of time.” (Mankiw, 2003, p. 208)
“Gross Domestic Product measures the output produced within an economy…” (Miles and Scott, —-, p. 31)
Consumers are only willing to buy the products and services only when those are up to the mark. If the products and services quality are low then people or consumers will not be equal interested to buy those as they were before. They will less interested or intentionally reduce buy those products and services. People are willing to consume more when they found the product service quality is and price is reasonable. If the quality of products and services are not good or price is very high even then people will buy those at a certain level only to fulfill their needs.
Consumer protection law is the accumulation or integration of different laws and regulations which are made for giving benefit to the people of the society. Proper enforcement of this law helps or ensures consumers at least good quality of products and services at best prices. So that people are more willing to buy not only to satisfy their needs but also satisfy their wants.
Competition in the market for products and services is essential for a healthy growth of an economy. Protection of consumers is accomplished by setting minimum quality specifications and safety compliances for both goods and services; and by establishing mechanism to redress their grievances. The objective is to ensure that presence of sufficient numbers of producers in the market, where no one can attain a position of dominance. A competitive market fosters investment in an economy and also helps the consumers through maintaining a fair price in the market.
Though perfect competition is a myth and unrealistic, a good competition policy lowers entry barriers in the market, makes the environment conducive to promoting entrepreneurship for the growth of small and medium enterprises, which will ultimately generate employment. Through competition policy, other forms of market failure can also be tackled such as formation of cartels, leading to collusive pricing, division of markets and joint decisions to reduce supply. The ultimate object of competition policy is to protect consumers as well as producers and to ensure safeguarding of public interest. Free and open competition lowers prices and ensures new and better products in the market, which in turn ensures consumer welfare. Ultimately it removes the unequal relationship between both consumers and producers. Competition policy includes laws and policies dealing with anti-competitive practices, as well as competition advocacy for educating the public about the need for the policy. Any such policy generally includes economic policy undertaken by the government and competition law.
Another thing is, proper enforcement of Consumer Protection Law there is always a threat for the producers of the products and providers of the services to get banned if they do not meet or maintain the criteria and requirements. If the criteria are maintained properly and people are become aware of that, people will be no more interested to buy those imported products instead of home made products. Using homemade products helps to retain our own money. As a result economy of our country may grow quickly and help economy to run properly.
As I talked about globalization before, it gives opportunity to all companies. So, if product quality is good and it is maintained properly, there will many opportunities grow outside the boundary of country. As a result, trade deficit of the whole nation go down significantly. It will also help the economy to be stabilized and total economy will get benefited.
Laws are accumulation of some rules and regulations by sovereign authority. But success of laws depends on who has the power of enforcing them. Appropriate enforcement of a law can make people do the right thing. So, if certain people, those have the power, enforce consumer right protection law in a right manner, strong-handed, and effectively then all the people of the country will get benefited. They will get the quality products and services at cheap price because of the market competition. As a result, we have to import fewer products from the other countries at a high cost we may also export those product instead of importing. So, economy of the country will boost up and it run properly. For the betterment of the whole society, now it is important to enforce the consumer protection law properly and this country a better place to live.
- A Booklet on Consumer Protection in Bangladesh
- Ahamuduzzaman et al, “Consumer Protection Law”, Books 4 U, July, 2009,Ch-Four, pp-
- Consumer Rights Protection Act, 2009, Bangladesh
- Constitution of The People’s Republic of Bangladesh
- Emrana Ahmed (Senior research fellow of the law development), Article: Protecting
- Goldring, J. (2008). Consumer Protection Law
- Mankiw, J. Macroeconomics
- The Bangladesh Pure Food Ordinance, 1959
- The Food Grain Supply Ordinance, 1956
- 10. www.oft.gov.uk/shared_oft/business_leaflets/…act/oft512.pdf
- http://www.minlaw.gov.bd or Bangladesh Code, Vol.38, Ministry of Law, GOB;
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 Stated in Section 2 (19) of the Consumer Rights Protection Act, 2009, Bangladesh.
 See in the constitution of The People’s Republic of Bangladesh.
 See in the constitution of The People’s Republic of Bangladesh.
 See in the constitution of The People’s Republic of Bangladesh.
 Stated in Section 2 (20) of the Consumer Rights Protection Act, 2009, Bangladesh.
 Mankiw wrote in his book “Macroeconomics”- ‘’ “Gross domestic product (GDP) is the market value of all final goods and services produced within a country in a given period of time.”
 Scott and Muller wrote in their book, “Gross Domestic Product measures the output produced within an economy…”