Who is a consumer?

A consumer is anyone ranging form the cradle to the tomb, from the Prime Minister of a country to the labourer on the street. In simple words, the persons who use or consumes products or services are consumers. In the eyes of Act, a person is required to fulfill certain conditions to be regarded as a consumer. Consumers are those persons who, for oneself or for the dependants, buy or use or obtain a permission to use any products or service by offering a price, prompt or due or in installments.

In addition, any person using such products with the consent of the buyer will also be treated as a consumer. But if someone buys something for the purpose of resale or for any other commercial purposes, he or she shall not be a consumer as such. Personal consumption is the main test for defining oneself as a consumer. Under CRPA 2009, a person who buys goods to earn a livelihood by ‘self-employment’ (though in a commercial scale) also falls within the definition of a consumer.

Consumer Rights

  1. Right to Satisfaction of Basic Needs: Fundamental right according to the Constitution of Bangladesh to have access to food, clothing, education, healthcare , shelter.
  2. Right to Safety: Protection of hazardous and unsafe products and services.
  3. Right to Information: information about the quality, quantity, potency, purity, standard and price of products and services.
  4. Right to Choose: Availability of selection of goods and services from their varieties to justify the quality, cost, preference.
  5. Right to be Heard: raise unhappiness against consumer malpractices or right to be represented by consumer organization.
  6. Right to Redress: This is the crux of consumer rights. The consumer is entitled to have legal remedy, either monetary or exchange, in case of violation of consume rights.
  7. Right to Consumer Education: to have access to programs and information that helps the consumer to make a better and informed buying decision.
  8. Right to Healthy Environment: to live and work in an environment that does not affect consumers’ welfare and health.

Consumer Responsibilities

  • Use of product safely, following all safety instructions and remaining alert for future precautions.
  • Choose vigilantly at a fair price.
  • Make the effort to seek compensation for a wrong.
  • Make choices that minimize the environmental impact of your purchase on others.
  • Consume in a sustainable manner, so as not to prevent others from meeting their own needs.

Consumer Rights are recognized in the Consumer Rights Protection Act 2009

The rights include:

  1. Obtaining commodities or services at a price fixed by the authority or a reasonable price.
  2. Right to have safe and pure products.
  3. Right to have necessary and correct information about products.
  4. Right to be informed of the qualities or defects (if any) of a particular product.
  5. Right to know the quantity of the product.
  6. Right to know the utility, purity and price of the product.
  7. Right to have products or services in right quantity and quality.
  8. Right to have choice among product offerings.
  9. Right to have defense against activities relating to purchase or sale of products by which life or property may be in danger.
  10. Right to education about consume rights and protection.
  11. Right to have access to remedy in relation to violations of consumer rights.

Any inquiry into the problem of consumer protection in a least developed country like Bangladesh should begin with the existing fundamental difference between consumer protection philosophy in the developed and in the developing countries of the world. While a consumer in a developed economy is literally submerged in an ocean of alternative choices, his counterpart in a developing economy suffers from acute lack of purchasing power. So for him the question is not What to buy, but How to buy? Hence, from a third world point of view, most important consumer right is the right to satisfaction of basic needs, which under pressure from the developing countries was subsequently incorporated as one of the eight basic rights of consumers in the UN Guidelines for Consumer protection. The remaining consumer rights, now internationally recognized, are the right to safety, right to be informed, the right to complaints and representation, the right to choose and get things at fair price, the right to gel compensation, the right to consumer education and the right to healthy environment. Needless to say that in a country like Bangladesh where poverty for the great majority of the people is a grim struggle for survival consumer rights have little, if any, practical appeal to general people. The government, on the other hand, could not also attach due importance to consumer protection since the inception of this tiny nation-state.

6.2 Consumerism in Bangladesh:

Consumer movement in Bangladesh, to put it plainly, is still in its nascent stage. Consumer vigilance grows with literacy and knowledge. Only 29.2 percent of total 1978 population in the country is literate. This explains why consumer movement is a complicated social step in our present socio-economic condition. Unlimited desire for profiteering having no control brings unbearable sufferings for the consumer and particularly for the people of limited income as they cannot adjust themselves with the great and sudden change in price level. At present with the price hike, adulterated and immolated articles of essential goods flooded tile market, and no protest and agitation from the innocent and silent consumers is making the situation all the more worse. The vast population are revolving in the vicious circle of poverty, illiteracy and fatalism. They blame their luck and accept the subhuman life as natural. Under existing socio-economic and political circumstances the attention of the government has been shifted to more urgent necessities and notwithstanding the’ decision of the 1990 Bangkok Conference of the countries of Asia and the Pacific to adopt by 1995. consumer protection measures in the member-states in accordance with the UN Guidelines l985, no practical, unidirectional step has yet been taken in Bangladesh.

6.3 Consumer Protection Legislation in Bangladesh:

A large number of related Consumer right laws hi Bangladesh, Such as-

6.3.1 Conditional Protection of consumer in Bangladesh:

Legal basis of consumer protection is to be found in part three of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh. The Constitution of Bangladesh, which has come into force in 1972, has been recognized as the supreme law of the land. Specific constitutional provision which has paved the way for consumer protection legislation in Bangladesh is stated in article 18(1) of the Constitution of Bangladesh.

The State shall regard the raising of the level of 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.

This article indicates the importance attributed to the nutritional status of the people and basic principles and measures for protecting consumers from products, processes and services, which can endanger for their health and safety. This constitutional safeguard has been strengthened through promulgation of related laws and regulations, though mis legal support is inadequate, moreover, in the Constitution of Bangladesh some justifiable fundamental rights are incorporated which are connected with the rights of the consumers. As for examples, articles 32 provides that no person shall be deprived of life or personal liberty save in accordance with law; articles 38 provides that every citizen shall have the right to form associations or unions, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interests of morality or public order; article 40 provides that subject to any restrictions imposed by law, every citizen shall have the right to enter upon any lawful profession or occupation, and to conduct any lawful trade or business. These fundamental rights inter alias are enforceable by the Supreme Court of Bangladesh in accordance with article 102 read with Article 44 of Bangladesh Constitution. All these constitutional provisions may be interpreted in favor of the protection of the rights of the consumer. Though there is no specific enactment, but there is constitutional guarantee for the protection of the consumers.

6.3.2 Control of Essential Commodities Act 1956:

This Act was passed by the East Pakistan Provincial Assembly on September 19,1956. This empowers the government to declare from time to time, some commodities to be essential and hence may control their production, distribution, preservation, use, business etc. To achieve this end, the act introduced the system of license and permit of certain. goods so as to keep their price fixed, keep a proper account of sale of essential commodities and prevent hoarding of such commodities. Any breach of this act may entail three years of imprisonment or fines or both punishments together.

6.3.3 Pure Food Ordinance. 1959:

This Ordinance was promulgated on October 14,1959 and later ended in 1966. The Ordinance was initiated to ascertain production, supply and. distribution of pure food stuff. It regulates the production and distribution of certain essential foods of day to day use like flour, oil, ghee etc. It also prohibits persons with infected diseases like T. B. leprosy and any other disease as may be notified by the government from tune to lime, from taking part in the preparation, sale or distribution of food stuff. The Directorate of Public Health has been entrusted with the duly to inspect and examine the quality of food stuff prepared for sale in the market and take into cognizance any breach of the Provisions of the ordinance.

The first breach is punishable by a fine of up to 1000 taka or by imprisonment for six weeks to one year. Any subsequent breach is punishable with a fine of 1000-4000 taka and imprisonment for three months to one year. It should, however, be mentioned here that lack of manpower and financial constraints have drastically curtailed the affectivity and implementation of this otherwise useful ordinance. One study reveals that only 1.5 percent of the population is aware of this ordinance.

6.3.4. Price and distribution of Essential Commodities Ordinance, 1970;

The main object of this ordinance promulgated in the final year of unified Pakistan is 10 ensure the correct price and distribution of essential commodities hi the country so that importers, producers and lie businessmen may not earn unjustified profits. Under this ordinance the prices of commodities should be attached to them and the list of the prices should be hanged in a place open to clear vision and a delivered to the purchaser.

6.3.5 Bangladesh Drugs Control Ordinance, 1982:

It might be surprising to note that during the first decade after the emergence of Bangladesh as a sovereign entity no law was enacted to safeguard the consumer rights. The first significant move was made in 1982 with the promulgation of the Drugs Control Ordinance. This ordinance has been widely acclaimed, both within and outside of Bangladesh as a “historic step” towards protection of consumer right and interests.

This ordinance empowers the government to establish control over manufacture, import distribution and sale of drugs. Immediately, after is promulgation, manufacture, import and distribution of, 1707 medicines were prohibited and registration or license with regard to them stood cancelled.

This enactment makes provisions for constituting a Drugs Control Committee (now known as the Drug Administration). No medicine of any kind can be manufactured for sale, or be imported, distributed or sold unless it is registered with the Committee. The government may fix the maximum price at which any medicine may be sold and pharmaceutical raw material may be imported or sold. While manufacturing drugs, the firm’s arc advised to follow the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO). Breach of this ordinance may entail punishment hi the form of fines (up to Tk. 200,000) or imprisonment (up to ten years) or both together. The ordinance also makes room for a Drug Court to handle cases involving violations of the ordinance. This, however, is yet to be given material shape.

6.3.6. Breast Milk Substitute (Regulation of Marketing) Ordinance, 1984:

For promoting breast feeding by regulating fee marketing of breast milk substitutes, this ordinance was promulgated on May 24, 1984. This ordinance has been drafted under direct impact of the International Code of Marketing of breast milk Substitutes, 1981 adopted by WHO in its 36th annual session. The ordinance categorically mentions that no person shall make, exhibit, distribute, circulate, display or publish any advertisement promoting the use of any breast milk substitute or implying or designing to create the belief or impression that breast-milk substitute is either equivalent or superior to breast-feeding.

It is now considered to be a breach of law if any person promotes and induces others to buy any breast-milk substitute either by advertisement or by offering or giving any gift, prize, discount coupons, or other free items or by any other means, The ordinance explicitly prohibits that the container of the breast-milk substitute or any literature inside the container shall have any picture of infant or any such picture or appeal which might incline and induce the purchaser of the substitute. The ordinance now makes it obligatory to inscribe the words “there is no substitute to breastfeeding on the container package of the substitute. Violators of this provision may be subjected to imprisonment for two years, or a fine of 5000 taka or both together. The ordinance makes provision for the government to appoint an advisory committee the function of which shall be to advise the government on the proper observation of the International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitute. The Committee like the ordinance itself arc yet to take effect.

6.3.7. Tobacoo Goods Marketing (Control) Act 1988:

Bangladesh formally joined the international anti-smoking campaign with the enactment of the Tobacco Goods Marketing (Control) Act on October 27,1988. The object of the act is to, control and discourage the use of tobacco goods under threat of, penalty. Sellers manufacturers of tobacco goods are directed to in script the warning note “smoking is injurious to health” either on the packet or in any part of the container hi vernacular. As a matter of fact, in tune with the international practice, the act makes it a punishable offence to display or advertise any tobacco goods if unaccompanied by the warning note “Smoking is injurious to health”.

6.3.8. Sale of Goods Act, 1930:

Before 1930, a law relating to sale of goods has been contained in the Contract Act 1872. The Contract Act was adequate for that time but the development of modern commerce demand some modification and amendment of the act. The Sale of Goods Act 1930 repeals and replaces sections 76 to 123 of the Contract Act, 1972. The Act is directly related to protection of consumers. The most important provision for the protection of the consumers deals with caveat emptor. Principle of section 16 is based upon the presumption that the buyer is relying on his own skill and judgment when he affects a purchase.

For the safety of consumes specific labeling law should be promulgated for packed food because there is no scope to justify the product in an open market under Sale of Goods Act. At present unscrupulous businessmen mixes many thing with the food product for illegal profit but these ill practices were not exist at the time of enactment of the act.