CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION
THE CONCEPT OF CONSUMER PROTECTION
In its perception of the relationship in which an individual- a consumer- obtains a product or service to meet his private needs from a person who earns his living from manufacturing, selling or entrepreneurial activity, conventional economic doctrine relies on a number of assumptions: the end of all economic activities is consumpuon, consumer demand is the free and willing expression of consumer needs, the two poles in the relationship are perceived as discrete units for analytical purposes, the market place is the only place where commercial relationships can be formed. Only the market “gives consumers the opportunity to express the needs they feel through demand.., enables the producer to gain knowledge of this demand and to deploy the resources needed to meet it,… formalizes the trade relationship between the isolated buyer and the individual seller”. However, the advent of mass consumption has resulted in consumers facing an information gap when they enter transactions involving the purchaser of products or the provision of services. Products are now being marketed in such a number and in such a manner that it is more difficult for consumers to judge their quality adequately. The advance of technology means that many consumer products are quite complex. Quite apart from questions of judgment, style and taste, expert knowledge is essential to appreciate the features of many modern products which fall below the threshold of perception of the ordinary consumer. One author opines that “the course of innovations has thus quickly dated consumers’ experience and knowledge, for example what was known about natural fibres like wool, and cotton has little bearing on the characteristics and performance of nylon”. Characterising the US market, Ralph Nader goes so far as to argue that “consumers are being manipulated, defrauded and injured not just by marginal businesses or fly-by-night hucksters, but by the US blue-chip business firms…..”.
The imbalance, if not antagonism, in the consumer/supplier relationship is highlighted by the results of various empirical surveys describing the respective legal positions of the parties. For the isolated consumer, all that freedom of contract means is an obligation placed on him to comply with the terms of a contract probably pre-drafted-which he has no power to influence, generally in the absence of any alternative in the market concerned. Expressions of a specific demand and negotiation of the conditions of the transaction are made difficult, if not impossible, by the impersonality of distribution networks and the standardization of contracts. Even if the consumer has the determination to negotiate the terms of a transaction before entering into it, he will still need the necessary technical and legal competence and access to the relevant information.
Moreover, several doctrinal and empirical studies have pointed to the financial, psychological and cultural barriers preventing the traditional- individualist and judicial- model of access to justice and settlement of disputes from being applied satisfactorily to the settlement of disputes arising out of relations between consumers and traders. Therefore, legal “rules are required to redress the natural imbalance between the individual consumer and them”.
Thus, imbalances and failures which arise in the course of the development of an economic system based on the free play of market forces account for the emergence of a deep seated social movement whose first demand is for the reestablishment of market conditions making for a real balance between suppliers and consumers. The purpose of consumer law thus consists in “defining standards and rules and setting up procedures and structures which serve to promote the interests of the consumers on the market. However, it extends well beyond the mere protection of economic interest of consumers, to become part of more general social policy on consumer affairs.”
CONSUMER PROTECTION AND CONSUMER LAW
It has quite aptly been mentioned in literature that one aspect of consumer protection which has failed to receive adequate attention is the need of consumers for protection from themselves. Economic development has given consumers tremendous increases in purchasing power while at the same time prompting changes in the market which have significantly weakened their bargaining position. This problem bears particularly heavily on the poor. It is now a matter of no contention that consumer protection is not simply a middle-class issue but a matter of vital importance for the less will-off members of society. Despite these peculiarities, little or no development has occurred in the west in the legal concepts which govern the much altered supplier/manufacturer consumer relationship in the market.
Behind this shadow of a long hidden vacuum in the regulation of the supplier consumer relationship, there has for some time existed a growing realization that the law as it stands does not give sufficient protection to the consumer. As a matter of fact, the term consumer is by origin an economic concept and until quite recently, it was simply foreign to legal usage and conceptualization. However, with the growing realization of the need for special legislation for the protection of consumers and only consumers, it became important to give the term consumer a fixed legal meaning.
It should, however, be kept in mind that to make for less antagonism and a more real balance between contracting parties, the legal formalization of consumer relationships, or the processing of bringing them within the scope of the law, must necessarily entail the development of new regulatory instruments or adjustment, if this is sufficient, of existing rules and procedures. The various initiatives and approaches taken in this direction reflect the aims of consumer law.
According to a leading European author on the subject, consumer law comprises “the body of standards, rules and instruments representing the juridical fruit borne by the various efforts that have been made to secure or improve the protection of the consumer on the economic market. By recognizing a number of consumer rights and establishing a specific normative framework, it is conducive to the achievement of the aims of the movement seeking to promote the interests of the consumer” prominent among which is the aim to establish a balance of power between consumers and their economic partners or, probably more realistically, to define the means whereby the existing imbalance can be reduced.
Some authors have tended to define consumer law either from a narrow or from a wide perspective. According to the former approach consumer law “focuses mainly on citizens entering transactions to obtain products and services from commercial enterprises… it is what is generally regarded as the thrust of consumer protection legislation, such legislation confines itself to transactions involving goods and services. According to the wider view of the consumer interest, the term “consumer” is virtually equated with the term “citizen”. It is said that the consumer interest is involved when citizens enter exchange relationships with institutions like hospitals, libraries, police forces and various government agencies, as well as with businesses.
It has, however, been quite strongly argued that even the concept of the consumer as citizen is limited, because it implicitly accepts the existing order of things. Much has been written about how advertising creates needs, generates consumption and thus perpetuates capitalism. Curbing advertising abuse does not affect this fact. It has further been argued that the notions of consumer protection may lead to such negative effects as deprivation and consequently divisions in society.
In the opinion of some writers it is rather difficult to formulate a definition of consumer law of any legal value which is widely acceptable. But they opine that for practical purposes consumer law is meant to cover the rules which govern relations between professionals (producers and traders) and consumers, as well as those rules which intend to protect consumers though not directly applicable to them.
In a marked departure from the above mentioned approaches it has been accepted in Sweden and other Scandinavian countries that the “legal consumer concept must be confined to private persons who are acquiring goods, services or anything else of value mainly for their own use and not for resale or use in business.” In this sense, it is about what the Germans call Endverbraucher or the ultimate consumer. Such a delimited consumer concept has of late gained international recognition and may be traced back to the American UCC which defines consumer goods as goods “used or bought for use primarily for personal, family or household purposes’, (9-109) . However, even in Swedish legislation the notion of consumer protection and law has not always been constant and has undergone changes through the years. Thus, under the Swedish Marketing Practices Act of 1975, the term was still very fuzzy and included anyone who acquired goods or services for his own use. It was not limited to private persons and seemed, to include business also.
In the opinion of Professor Ulf Bernitz, leading Scandinavian expert on consumer law, the most sophisticated definition of the term at present is to be found in the Swedish Consumer Sales Act of 1973. This Act, renewed in 1991, is applicable “where a consumer buys from a merchant goods which are intended mainly for private use and which are sold in the course of the merchant’s professional activities.” This definition, in the opinion of Prof. Bernitz is also applicable to consumer services where they are intended for private purposes rather than private use. “Consumer purchase is thus a narrower concept than non-commercial purchase and relates only to sales from a merchant to a consumer. Outside this concept are all cases where the purchaser is a businessman, a legal person or a person who mainly intends to use article in his professional activities. Transactions between private persons also fall outside the definition.”
Notwithstanding such a clear concept of consumer protection, confusion still’ creeps in as to the true legal nature of some transactions. Thus, in practice it may prove difficult for a seller to decide, within the framework of his ordinary rapid sales routines, whether a purchaser is a consumer or not- a matter that according to the Swedish approach depends on the purchaser’s intention in buying the goods for him. The English method of limiting the scope of legislation on the basis of commodity groups i.e. restricting the application to what can be regarded as typical consumer goods, does not seem to help resolve the problem either. Such limitation, in the opinion of many experts, would appear to be an unnecessary curtailment of the scope of consumer protection. Prof. Bernitz rightly claims that in reality the sale to persons other than consumers of what appears to be typical consumer goods normally takes place on standard conditions, which fulfill the requirements of consumer legislation, and thus seems to be in complete harmony with commercial realities. Thus, in short, it may be concluded that consumer protection is the achieved or intended result of consumer policy.
Consumer protection is not simply a middle-class issue but a matter of vital importance for the less will-off members of society. Unfortunately, little or no development has occurred in the west in the legal concepts which govern the much altered supplier/manufacturer consumer relationship in the market.
According to a leading European author on the subject, consumer law comprises “the body of standards, rules and instruments representing the juridical fruit borne, by the various efforts that have been made to secure or improve the protection of the consumer on the economic market and to promote the interests of the consumer” to establish a balance of power between consumers and their economic partners or, probably more realistically, to define the means whereby the existing imbalance can be reduced.
In a narrower sense, consumer law “focuses mainly on citizens entering transactions to obtain products and services from commercial enterprises… it is what is generally regarded as the thrust of consumer protection legislation, such legislation confines itself to transactions involving goods and services. According to the wider view of the consumer interest, the term “consumer” is virtually equated with the term “citizen”. It is said that the consumer interest is involved when citizens enter exchange relationships with institutions like ‘hospitals, libraries, police forces and various government agencies, as well as with businesses. It is now accepted in Sweden and other Scandinavian countries that the “legal consumer concept must be confined to private persons who are acquiring goods, services or anything else of value mainly for their own use and not for resale or use in business. In this sense, it is about what the Germans call Endverbraucher or the ultimate consumer. Such a delimited consumer concept has of late .gained international recognition and may be traced back to the American UCC which defines consumer goods as goods “used or bought for use primarily for personal, family or household purposes, (9-109). The Swedish Marketing Practices Act of 1975 included anyone who acquired goods or services for his own use. It was not limited to private persons and seemed, to include business also.
New rules enhancing consumer rights are in applicable across EU since 12 December 2007, 2.5 years after their formal adoption in May 2005 ( Directive 2005/29/EC on Unfair Commercial Practices). This directives boost consumer confidence and make it easier for business (especially small and medium sized) to carry out cross border trading.
The new legislation outlines “sharp practices” which will be prohibited throughout the EU, such as misleading and aggressive marketing. A general ban on unfair commercial practices will ensure that the Directive will stand the test of time even in fast evolving markets. Specific provisions prevent exploitation of vulnerable consumers, such as children. Enforcement of the rules is the task of national consumer protection authorities and courts.
The Unfair Commercial Practices Directive was published in the Official Journal of the European Communities on 11 June 2005. This means that the Directive came into force on’ 12 June 2005 and was due to be transposed into UK law by 1-2 June 2007. Regulations bringing it into effect in the UK – the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations (SI 2008 No 1277) – were approved in Parliament on 8 May 2008 and came into effect on 26 May 2008.
The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) has a webpage which provides information on the progress of the Directive. BERR has published a booklet explaining the new regulations.
The Directive aims to:
- Ban pressure selling and misleading marketing.
- Harmonise member states’ rules on unfair commercial practices.
- Clarify consumers rights and give them the same protection, whether they buy from the shop around the corner or from a website of a company based in another member state.
- Facilitate cross-border trade by establishing EU-wide rules against aggressive or misleading business-to-consumer marketing.
The Consumer Protection Act 2007 which was brought into effect in May 2007 provides for its implementation in Ireland. AH parts of the Act have been implemented (apart from Sections 48 and 49 which deal with surcharges on certain payment methods) .The Act provides that a range of unfair, misleading and aggressive trading practices are banned if they are likely to cause appreciable impairment of your ability to make an informed choice in relation to the product concerned and cause you to make a decision about a transaction you would not otherwise make.
Aspects of Consumer Protection
“There are three aspects of consumer rights protection, which every country must consider.
First, the aspect of ‘voluntary protection’ which means that consumers themselves would voluntarily set up associations and/or organizations to safeguard their own rights and interests. These associations/organizations generally work as pressure groups on the government for consumer rights issues. There are many such voluntary organizations in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and other countries of the world. In Bangladesh, the Consumers’ Association of Bangladesh (CAB) was established in 1978.
Second, the aspect of’ institutional protection’. By establishing national institutions to safeguard and promote consumer rights of citizens this aspect of consumers’ protection can be ensured. For example, in 1914 the Federal Trade Commission, in 1927 the Food and Drug Administration and in 1970 the National High Traffic Administration were set up in the USA; the United Kingdom established the office of Director-General of Fair Trading; Sweden set up the Consumer Agency KOV and Consumer Ombudsman KQ: India established National Consumer Protection Council, various. State Consumer Protection Councils, National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission with State Commissions and District Forums; Pakistan set up the Islamabad Consumer Protection Council; Sri Lanka and Nepal set up the office of the Commissioner of Internal Trade and the Consumer Protection Council respectively.
In Bangladesh Standard and Testing Institute has been active in protecting consumers of Bangladesh in a limited capacity by way of doing laboratory research and testing of commodities to find out whether the same comply with the expected standard. However, currently the country does not have any specific organization or institution exclusively designated to comprehensively safeguard and promote consumer rights.
Third, the aspect of ‘statutory protection’, which can be guaranteed by enacting relevant laws for protecting the rights and interests of the consumers. Many countries of the world, including those in Asia, have already enacted comprehensive laws in this regard. For example, the Consumer Protection Fundamental Act 1968 in Japan, Consumer Protection Act 1979 in both Thailand and Sri Lanka, Consumer Protection Act 1986 in India, Consumer Act of the Philippines 1990 in the Phillippines, Islamabad Consumers Protection Act 1995 in Pakistan, Consumer Protection Act 1998 in Nepal, The Law on Consumer Protection 1999 in Indonesia and Consumer Protection Act 1999 in Malaysia were enacted. However, Bangladesh is yet to enact such a comprehensive Consumers Protection Act.
AIMS OF CONSUMER PROTECTION
It is now generally accepted that consumer policy and consumer protection are concepts closely interlinked and sometimes even interchangeable. Professor Bernitz remarks that “when trying to define the scope of consumer policy, the greater part of the community activity and lawmaking is ultimately aimed at providing the individual citizens, the consumers, with protection and support in various aspects.”
The scope of consumer protection is quite vast and engulfs even newer interests and aspects. The Consumer Protection Charter of the council of Europe and the Consumer Policy Program adopted by the European Community in April, 1975, contains what may be termed the scope of consumer protection and covers a broad spectrum of goods and services- everyday goods and consumer capital goods such as domestic appliances, cars and boats, repair and maintenance works, private houses and vacation cottages, travel and insurance- as well as broader issues such as planning alternatives and costs for housing, the household and the use of leisure-time.
Although the scope of these objects may be identical to that in Nordic countries, the latter do not regard consumer protective aims to be fundamental rights as has been done in the above mentioned two European documents.
The aims of consumer protection require the fulfillment of several conditions which inter alia include the following:
- Consumer information, without which it is almost impossible for the consumer to exercise his real freedom of choice. Information is required primarily in three areas; the quality and safety of goods and services available on the market; the price of goods and services offered and the rights that consumers can exercise in their dealings with suppliers;
- a genuine network of legal advice services which are readily accessible and competent in consumer affairs;
iii. there must be effective protection of consumers against excessive examples of imbalance in their relations with suppliers;
- consumers must be given real opportunities to defend their rights and obtain redress for any damage suffered;
- consumers must be involved, through consultation and representation, in decision making, not only by public authorities but actually within companies which affect their interests. Participation by consumers in the law making process is an essential factor in the development of specific consumer law;
- education on consumer problems needs to be organized, so that the citizen is in a position to make active use of the legal aid which it is intended to make available to him. In a broad sense, law reform has to be accompanied by consumer education since there is no denying the fact that “you cannot legislate for fools”.
This enumeration of the types of action needed to promote consumers interests provides an accurate indication of the fields in which consumer law should come to play, foremost among which are:
- protection against risks of physical injury to persons or property and against useless products.
- protection against improper marketing measures and inadequate information.
- protection against one-sided contract terms and risks of economic damage,
- provision of effective and impulsive dispute resolution procedures for the consumer.
- monitoring of the mechanism whereby prices and rates are fixed on the consumer goods and services market,
- surveillance of practices or agreements jeopardizing the competitive structure of a market sector,
- planning of a consumer education programme.
The edifice of law that must be constructed on these institutions is bound to mark a significant departure from the conventional principles of the liberal legal system, denouncing the imaginary protections which is all that the consumer can expect of it. The instruments that it is called to use are drawn from various traditional categories of law: the mechanisms of private law, the rules of economic control, civil, administrative and criminal sanctions, the rules of prejudicial or judicial proceedings etc. Prof. Bernitz summarizes the picture in the following words.” It calls for several bold reform and new interpretations: greater formalism in contracts, increased responsibilities for suppliers to provide consumers with positive information, compulsory definition of certain clauses in contracts, introduction of mechanisms departing from the ordinary law of contract to give consumers an opportunity to think things over, introduction of bans or requirements for prior authorization under public or administrative law, etc.”
Thus, we can conclude that consumer protection is a large area, covering a diverse range of laws and policies. It includes such topics as the regulation of market-place relations (contract terms, advertising), the establishment of health and safety standards for products sold to consumers, and regulation of the provision of certain services (credit, professions, public services etc.). In short, consumer protection law is designed to protect citizens/consumers against injuries though to occur in unregulated markets.
Definition of Consumer Protection
Consumer” means any individual who in relation to a commercial practice is acting for purposes which are outside his business; Section-2 (19) of the Consumer Rights Protection Act, 2009 in Bangladesh states the definition of consumer.
“Consumer” means such type of person:
(a) Who except for the purpose of resale and commercial intention
- i) purchases or agrees to purchase any product by payment of a price;
- ii) purchases or agrees to purchases by part payment of price;
iii) purchases with the promise of paying price in extended term or by installments;
(b) Who uses the product purchased under clause
(a) with the consent of the purchaser;
(c) Who, after purchasing a product, uses it commercially for the purpose of making a living by self-employed;
(d) 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.
(e) Who consumes the service received under clause (d) with the consent of the service consumer.
Although it may be difficult for a seller to decide whether a purchaser is a consumer or not-it depends on the purchaser’s intention in buying the goods for him. It is said that consumer protection is the achieved or intended result of consumer policy.
A COMMON LAW BACKGROUND OF CONSUMER PROTECTION
Probably it would not be improper to claim that the concept and rules of consumer protection primarily evolved within the system of common law, and it is deemed relevant to touch upon, albeit in very condensed from, the common law origin of the concept.
Norms of consumer protection like any other branch of common law, were developed by judges in the course of deciding cases/specific disputes which came before them- a process which had its origins in the early middle ages. Rules laid down as to the duties of Innkeepers in medieval England provide a glaring example: in an age of rugged individualism, when judges shrank from imposing obligations on men other than for deliberate acts, when there was not yet the concept of sanctity of agreements, when damage caused by negligence rarely led to legal liability, innkeepers were still held liable for the loss of goods belonging to their guests. They were responsible even if, for example, the goods were stolen despite every precaution on their part. The raison d’etre of such imposition of strict liability in cases as early as 1368 was that innkeepers had “greater opportunity for theft than most other people.”
Such a clear illustration of consumer protection, however, did not reflect the general judicial attitude, and as late as up to the last decades of the nineteenth century the courts placed for more emphasis on the maxim- caveat emptor- let the buyer beware, which also had its origin deep in the Middle Ages. In those times, when transactions of sale, and even of barter, were a rarity, it was taken for granted that the buyer relied on his own judgment in transactions with strangers, and the idea of caveat emptor merely reflected an actual practice. Even then the adage did not mean that a buyer never had a remedy if he was the victim of unprincipled salesmanship. Writing in the sixteenth century, Mr. Justice Fitzherbert, author of one of the earliest legal text books on common law, noted: “If a man sell unto another man a horse, and warrant him to be sound and good, if the horse be lame or diseased, that he cannot work, he shall have an action against him…”
By the beginning of the nineteenth century such an approach started gaining an upper hand. However, one can easily detect lack of consistency in the relevant judicial decisions of the century reflecting the conflict between the laissez faire out look which characterized the convictions of most influential men in that age and the desire of judges to do justice in individual cases. The view was gaining ground that, though it was still for the buyer to look out for himself, there were solutions where caveat emptor could no longer represent the practice of even the most prudent buyer- situations, becoming more common in an era of increasing trade, where the buyer had no opportunity to examine the good before the sale. This shift in judicial attitude found material expression in the decision of Gardiner v. Gray in 1815 in the words of the Chief Justice: “The goods must be saleable under the denominations mentioned in the contract between them. The purchaser cannot be supposed to by goods to lay them on a dunghill.”
That the seller was under increasing scrutiny of the court was evident some years later in Jones v. Bright (1829). The Chief Justice could not have been more explicit: “It is the duty of the Court in administering the law to lay down rules calculated to prevent fraud, to protect persons who are necessarily ignorant of the qualities of a commodity they purchase, and to make it the interest of manufacturers and those who sell to furnish the best article that can be supplied….. I wish to put the case on a broad principle. If a man sells an article he thereby warrants that it is merchantable- that is, fit for some purpose. If he sells it for a particular purpose he thereby warrants it for that purpose.”
From its earliest days the common law had differentiated between the obligations of the ordinary man and the duties of those who professed a particular calling and whose goods or services were available to all. The followers of these “common callings” were subjected to liabilities that arose not out of agreement, but rather from their status and from the idea that it was in the interest of the community that people who offered their services to the public at large should show care, skill and honesty in their dealings. In doing so, however, the common law, as it was created and applied by judges, showed the utmost prudence not to underestimate the basic principle of the sanctity of contract- the basis of the relationship of the seller/manufacturer with the consumer. The scope of the present work though does not permit us to follow the different stages of the development of the principle of sanctity of contract up to modern times; it may, however, be stated here that over the times the rights and duties of the parties to a contract became so interpreted as not to jeopardize the position of the “less equal” party to the contract i.e. the individual consumer. And thus evolved another basic principle of consumer protection law- the duty to take care- which though it existed for centuries in certain limited fields such as for carriers and surgeons, is essentially a concept of the twentieth century. It was only in 1932 in the climacteric decision in Donoghue v. Stevenson, otherwise known as the “snail in the gingerbeer bottle” case, that the fundamental position of the duty to take reasonable care was firmly established in common law. Hence, the case merits special mention.
The facts of Donoghue v. Stevenson were that a shop assistant, Mrs. Donoghue, went with a lady friend to a cafe run by one Minchella. The friend bought her a bottle of ginger beer and some ice-cream. The bottle was made of dark opaque glass and Mrs. Donoghue had no reason to suspect that it contained anything but pure ginger beer. After taking a few sips the remainder of the bottle was poured into a tumbler containing ice-cream when a snail, in a state of complete decomposition, floated out of the bottle. As a result of what Mrs. Donoghue described as the “nauseating sight of the snail”, and the impurities of the ginger-beer already consumed Mrs. Donoghue suffered from shock and gastro-enterities. She brought an action against Stevenson, the manufacturer of the ginger-beer and the person responsible for its bottling.
The importance of Donoghue v. Stevenson which came to the House of Lords in 1932 was the decision of the majority judges that the manufacturer of goods ownes a duty to the ultimate consumer, with whom he is not in any contractual relationship. Lord Atkin expressed himself thus:” The rule that you are to love your neighbor becomes in law, you must not injure your neighbour.” And to the self-posed question- “in law who is my neighbour?”- Lord Atkin answers “persons who are so closely and directly affected by my act that I ought reasonably to have them in contemplation as being so affected when I am directing my mind to the acts or omissions which are called in question.”
Therefore, not only does the manufacturer owe a duty to the buyer of his goods, he owes the duty to all persons whom he ought reasonably to have in contemplation. In the just narrated case, Mrs. Donoghue was not the buyer (if she had been, she could have sued the cafe proprietor for breach of contract), nevertheless, the manufacturer of the ginger-beer ought to have contemplated that persons other than purchasers would drink the beer, and that they would be closely and directly affected by his acts in making and bottling the ginger-beer. He, consequently, owned Mrs. Donoghue a legal duty to be careful. Lord Atkin put it beyond all doubts:”…. a manufacturer of products, which he sells in such a form as to show that he intends them to reach the ultimate consumer in the form in which they left him with no reasonable possibility of intermediate examination, and with the knowledge that the absence of reasonable care in the preparation or putting up of the products will result in an injury to the consumers’ life or property, owes a duty to the consumer to take that reasonable care.” And thus, by imposing such an obligation on a manufacturer, Donoghue v. Stevenson as a matter of fact, laid legal liability at the door of the person primarily responsible and thereby accorded extension of legal protection for the consumer.
Donoghue v. Stevenson has been followed by several important developments in law in tune with the ever-felt necessity of protection of individual consumers in the context of the over increasing complications in the consumer market. This reflects the latent strength of common law. Prof. W. Friedmann had once commented that it was almost certain that the common law would no longer exist if great judges had not from time to time accepted the challenge and boldly laid down new principles to meet new social problems. In spite of these developments, however, Donoghue v. Stevenson is still considered to be the guiding star in matters of consumer protection.
Chapter: 2 CONSUMER PROTECTION RIGHTS IN EUROPE
CONSUMER PROTECTION LAW IN EUROPE
The movement for consumer protection achieved massive character in the countries of the West only from the beginning of the 1960s when there was a sharp increase in the production of durable consumer goods like automobiles, household electrical and radio-technical appliances etc. marked also by extension of domestic chemical products and consequently, of the service sector. Increase in the production of consumer goods, however, unleashed practical “helplessness” and “insecurity” of the consumer vis-a-vis producers and sellers of such goods who joined hands in numerous producer/seller unions. Facts of deception of the consumers, misleading advertisement, production of health-hazard products, artificial fixation of prices of consumer goods etc. have been revealed by the press. These reports helped to motivate the public opinion in the countries concerned in such a manner that a strong social movement, sometimes dubbed as “consumerism”, for protection of consumer interests gained strength. Very soon, consumer protection found its place in the manifesto of different political parties, consumer societies, trade-unions etc. It is not out of place to mention the Message of the US President, John F. Kennedy, 10 the Congress in 1962 in which the president outlined the fundamental postulates of US State Policy towards consumer protection. According to these principles a consumer must be guaranteed the “right to information”, “right to security”, “right to satisfactory choice” and “the right to be heard”. Similar consumer, rights were also included in the First and Second Programmes for the Implementation of Consumer Protection Policy and Information adopted by the Council of Ministers of the EEC in 1974 and 1981 respectively.
Massive consumer associations can now be found in almost all the bountries in the West. National Organization of Consumers were established in the USA (`1936), in Great Britain (1957), Federal Republic of Germany (1953), Holland (1953), France (1951), Canada (1960) and Japan (1961). The International Organization of Consumer Unions was founded in 1960. There are also some regional organizations like the European Bureau of Consumer Unions founded in 1962.
Main functions of the above mentioned Unions include inter alia to make available to consumers objective information about goods and services available in the market. To achieve this end these Unions carry out comparative test of goods the results of which are published in the journals owned by the Unions themselves. Also included in the functions is representation and protection of consumers in different state organs like planning, standardization etc. and even in the courts of law. In the majority of Western countries consumer unions and certain other social organizations are empowered to sue in case of direct or even indirect, damage caused to the collective interest of the consumers. One British lawyer has quite rightly noticed that “if there was a coherent theme to the 1970s, it was the rapid growth in the phenomenon which ultimately came to be called consumer protection or simply consumerism.” In this chapter an attempt is made to focus, from a comparative approach, various aspects of consumer protection law in Europe and the USA, and trace possible future trends of development in this vital field.
BASIC FEATURES OF CONSUMER PROTECTION IN THE WEST
There has been a remarkable development in the Western countries in the field of consumer protection in the last two decades; many governmental and semi-governmental bodies have been set up to formulate and implement policies safeguarding the interests of individual consumers. In Canada, for example, a special Ministry of Consumer Protection has been created. Several organs have also been set up in the governmental machinery in the USA e.g. the Commission on security of consumer products. Department of Consumer Protection within the Ministry of Justice etc. In the United Kingdom two separate organs, Department of Trade and the consultative Committee for Protection of consumers were established in accordance with the Fair Trading Act, 1973. This Act provided for the nomination of a Director General of fair trading. In tune with Art. 2 of the Act, the Director General is obliged to regulate and control commercial activities in the field of sale of goods and services in Great Britain. Under the 1973 Act it is the duty of the Director General of Fair Trading to keep under review commercial activities relating to the supply of goods and services to consumers (section 2 of the Act). The Act also sets up a Consumer Protection Advisory Committee to which the Director or the appropriate minister can refer “consumer trade practices’” (section 14). These include the terms and conditions on which goods or services are to be supplied to consumers and the manner in which those terms and conditions are communicated to consumers (section 13) (a) and (b). If the terms in question are “so adverse to the consumers as to be inequitable” (section 17) (2) 9d), the Director General can induce the Minister to legislate by Statutory Instrument against the practice (section 22) and to make it an offence to continue the practice. section 23).
In France, mainly two separate organs deal with consumer protection problems: National Committee on consumption and the National Institute on consumption. In 1976 European Consultative Committee on consumption was established within the framework of the EEC. Expert group on European consumer laws was also formed in the same year.
Significant changes have been made in legal regulation of elations among producers, sellers/servicing enterprises and consumers of respective goods and services. Classical western civil law (whether one speaks of the Common law or the Romano-Germanic legal system), founded on the principles of equality of parties and freedom of contract, in reality ignores the immanent economic inequality of parties—producing or selling company on one side and the individual consumer on the other. Consequently, the consumer is rather unable, in the sense of not possessing real potentialities, to realize his contractual rights. Changes or reforms made in this field, as a matter of fact, are directed towards creating an equilibrium of rights and obligations of both the parties, creating a balance between parties with the aid of legal mechanism by placing extra obligations on the shoulder of the producer/servicing company and awarding the individual consumer corresponding rights and guarantees.
It deserves special mentioning that consumer protection in the West is realized not only with the help of legal norms of civil and commercial law, but also with the active influence of institutes of other branches of law; administrative law, procedural law, criminal law etc. Nevertheless, private law methods form the basis of the so-called Consumer Law.
It hardly needs mentioning that consumer law is far from being homogeneous in nature. In Western legal literature, the complex nature of consumer law is well accepted. It has been acclaimed that “majority of the problems of commercial law could be interpreted from the view point of the consumer.” The notion “consumer” has not been used in legal literature in any specific, single connotation. Both in legislation and in the court practice “consumer” appeared in different legal qualities e.g. buyer, hirer, aggrieved party, etc.
The need of consumer protection necessitated amendments in existing laws and review of court practice in the West. The Constitution of Spain, 1978 declared consumer protection to be one of the fundamental directions of the economic policy of the state. Art. 51 of the Constitution states: “The state-powers guarantee safeguarding of interests of the consumers by protecting their security, health and their lawful economic interests in effective manners.”
Some countries adopted the policy of enacting very general laws in order to protect consumer interests. In Japan, for example, such an act’ was put into force in 1968. Respective laws in force in France are law no. 78-23 concerning Protection and Information of Consumers of goods and services of January 10, 1978, and the Decree of June 5, 1978, adopted for the purpose of implementation of the earlier law. In Finland, Laws on Protection of consumers No. 38-43 are in force from Sept. 1, 1978. Analogous law is in force in Austria from 1979. Canadian law of 1978 consolidated the till then existing norms on conditions of consumer contracts, on restrictive business practices, on methods of protection of consumer rights etc. Two dominant laws in the field of consumer protection in Ireland are the Law on sale of goods and services, 1980, and the Law on information of consumers, 1978. Similar laws and norms have also been enacted in a number of other European and even, developing countries.
During the last decade, in almost all the countries in the West, laws concerning Standard Term Contracts have been extensively reformed. For example, Sweden put into effect a new law in 1971 prohibiting unfair trade practices. The law was further amended in 1975. In the Federal Republic of Germany, special law regulating conditions of standard contracts was enacted on Dec. 9, 1976 which came into force from April 1, 1977. In the U. K. analogous laws are the Fair Trading Act, 1973, supplemented by the Unfair contract Terms Act, 1977, and the Consumer Protection Act, 1987.
Relations concerning consumer credit are now regulated by special legislative acts. In the USA, for example, a special Federal Law on Consumer Credit Protection has been enacted. Some US states follow the Uniform Consumer-Credit Code. In 1974, Act on Consumer Credit was enacted in England. At the same time, steps are being taken to harmonize consumer protection laws within the framework of the EEC.
CONSUMER PROTECTION IN COUNTRIES OF EASTERN EUROPE
In Eastern Europe consumer protection had all along been a neglected field suppressed by the euphoria of ideological supremacy of socialism over capitalism, and of priority of collective/social interests over those of individuals. Although recent upheavals and revolutionary changes in Eastern Europe have unleashed the palatable condition of the consumer in its proper magnitude and perspective, voices could be heard, even before, describing the helplessness of the individual consumer. Speaking of consumer protection in socialist countries the soviet lawyer E. Sukhanov had noted: “Methods and forms of classical law of obligation with its abstract figures of creditor and debtor in cases of consumer protection only help to overshadow the real (economic) inequality of the parties- individuals and specialized organizations- and enable the latter to create privileged position in relation to the clients (consumers.- M. R.).” Compared to other countries of Eastern Europe, the situation in the now independent state of the former Soviet Union had been worse. It is not without reason that the XXVIth Congress of CPSU stressed the urgency to study the experience of “Other socialist countries in the field of consumer protection.”
Consumer protection in these countries did not lead to what could have been analogous to Western Consumer Law. Consumer protection continue to be regulated mainly by norms of the civil code. During more than four decades of socialism only Czechoslovakia and former East Germany took definite steps, albeit within the boundaries of their respective civil codes, to regulate consumer protection. For obvious reasons of German reunification, the East German practice carries little, if any, practical importance now.
In Czechoslovakia norms regulating all kinds of service to consumers by organizations of the service sector have been placed in separate chapter in the Civil Code. The term service has been defined in the code very broadly so as to include even those services which have not been mentioned in the code. The code also contains classification of services into headings and subheadings (10 such headings in the civil code). While thus developing the law of obligations. Czechoslovakian legislators, in their desire to ensure “maximum satisfaction of consumer demands” inserted new sections introducing elevated liability of the service-offering organizations, corresponding rights of the individual clients, material liability of service-offering organizations, improvement in the procedure of suing the organizations and extension of judicial protection of individual customers/consumers.
One unique phenomenon in the Czechoslovakian practice is the emergence of pre-contract obligation of the service-offering organizations to conclude contracts with consumers. In accordance with this principle, refusal by the organization to give service to a client (or even refusal to sign a contract with the client) is considered to constitute a violation of consumer rights and may be pleaded in the court. The organization is also law bound to ensure uninterrupted and qualified satisfaction of the needs of the clients/consumers.
Certain consumer rights relating to defective products are now guaranteed in Hungary and Czechoslovakia. For example, private consumer has the right to lodge complaint relating to defective products with any organization engaged in business in analogous goods if lodging of complaint with the seller of the defective product requires “extra expenses” for him. The consumer also enjoys the right to be compensated for all expenses relating to the lodging of such complaints. The law also prohibits “exemption clauses” i.e. clauses limiting or excluding the liability of the seller/manufacturer, and even provides for “strict liability” in some cases. The civil code of Czechoslovakia, for example, contains provisions under which the service-offering organization is liable irrespective of its culpa/negligence for any damage or loss of goods deposited with the organization by the consumers (e.g. clothes for dry-cleaning).
Until very recent times court practice in the East European countries did not/could not play the role of their Western counterparts in safeguarding consumer rights. But under changed circumstances, given necessary prudence, they are likely to activate their role even with the aid of the existing civil law mechanism. For example, sec. 209 and 2, sec. 237 of the Civil Code of Hungary stipulate that “the court has the right to declare any contract null and void if it contains clauses giving unilateral advantage to one party or adversely affecting the interests of one of the parties.” This provision, in our opinion, provides enough room for non-enforcement by the court of standard-term contracts or contracts with discriminatory clauses and pave the way for protection of consumers who had long been residing beyond the scope of legal protection.
DEVELOPMENT TRENDS IN CIVIL AND COMMERCIAL LAW
This brief study reveals that consumer protection as a philosophy and as a legal institute has achieved an universal character. Recent trends in the development of law in this aspect give enough space to conclude that the emergence of Western/International consumer protection law is no longer a utopia. If law has always been a tool for “social engineering” devoted to the ultimate well-being of the individual, consumer protection deserves the attention that legal thinkers and legislators in the West have been attaching to it. Under these circumstances, it is hard to agree with the view that “where trade and industry organize themselves at European or even international level, consumers cannot hope to receive an adequate amount of protection or information by local, regional or national steps.” Fortunately enough, recent practice of the European countries establish the contrary- consumer protection law is achieving strength and progress, albeit inch by inch, and is sure to remain in the centre of attention of the legislators and more importantly, of individuals, for years to come.
Chapter 3; Rights of Consumers in the Indian Sub-continent
The Indian sub-continent comprises of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Srilanka, Nepal, Bhutan etc. All these countries are commonly known as “South-Asian” countries. A number of consumer rights are ensured by the various laws of those countries.
The Republic of India, the neighbour of Bangladesh, in 1986 adopted the Consumer Protection Act, with a view to providing for “better protection of the interests of consumers and for that purpose to make provision for the establishment of consumer councils and other authorities for the settlement of consumers disputes… ” The Act is a “important development in the field of law of torts.”
Rights protected under the Act, 1986 in India
The Act has sought to promote and protect the following rights of the consumers:
(i) right to be protected against marketing of goods which are hazardous to life and property;
(ii) (ii) right to be informed about the quantity, potency, purity, standard and price of goods to protect the consumer against unfair trade practice;
(iii) right to be assured, wherever possible, access to variety of goods at competitive prices;
(iv) right to be heard and to be assured that consumers interests will receive due consideration at appropriate forums;
(v) right to seek redress against unfair trade practices or unscrupulous exploitation of consumers;
(vi) right to consumer education.
Quasi- judicial machinery
Within the framework of this Act, a quasi- judicial machinery is sought to be set up at the district, state and central levels to provide speedy and simple redressal of consumer disputes. These quasi- judicial bodies will observe the principles of natural justice and have been empowered to give relief of a specific nature and award appropriate compensation to the consumers. Penalties for non-compliance of the orders given by the quasi-judicial bodies have also been provided. By this Act “technicalities are to be eschewed and the grievances of the consumers on substance and merits are to be relieved.”
The Consumer Protection Act 1986 of India
The Consumer Protection Act 1986 of India imposes the duty to trade fairly by stipulating five grounds on each of which a complaint may be lodged. The five grounds are:
(1) An unfair trade practice or a restrictive trade practice has been adopted by any trader;
(2) The goods are defective;
(3) The services are deficient;
(4) The price charged for goods is in excess of that fixed by law or displayed; and
(5) The goods offered are hazardous to life and safety when used and are in contravention of any existing law (section 2(c).
Restrictive trade practice
The term “restrictive trade practice” is defined in the Act to mean a trade practice which requires a consumer to obtain goods or services as a condition precedent to obtaining other goods or services, (section 2(nn)).
Unfair trade practice
The term “unfair trade practice” is given a general definition:
“… a trade practice which, for the purposes of promoting the sale, use or supply of any goods or for the provision of any service, adopts any unfair method or unfair or deceptive practice…” (Section 2(r)).
This general definition is followed by a detailed list of unfair trade practices but the list is not an exhaustive one and merely serves to indicate the type of trade practices that would be held to be unfair:
- False representation that goods are of a particular standard, quality, quantity, grade, composition, style or model;
- False representation that services are of a particular standard, quality or grade;
- False representation that goods are new;
- False representation that goods or services have sponsorship, approval, performance, characteristics, accessories, uses or benefits;
- False representation that the seller or supplier has a sponsorship, approval or affiliation;
- False or misleading representation as to the need or usefulness of any goods or services;
- False representation as to warranty or guarantee of performance, or life span of a product without adequate or proper test thereof;
- False representation as to warranty or guarantee of a product and after sales service;
- Misleading price indications;
- False or misleading comparative advertising;
- Bait advertising;
- Offering goods for sale which do not meet stipulated standards; arid
- Hoarding, destruction or refusal to sell with the intent of raising the price of those or similar goods or services
Consumer Protection Councils
The Act creates Consumer Protection Councils at the national level and that of each state to promote and protect the rights of the consumer in such matters as safety, quality, choice, representation, education and redress. The Consumer Protection Councils are at each level to comprise the Minister in charge of consumer affairs and such other government and non-government members as may be prescribed (chapter 2, sections 4-8). The composition is meant to bring about representation of all stakeholders. Both the national and state level councils have from time to time constituted committees and working groups to undertake study of particular policy, law and issues of interest to consumers.
Significant as they are, the characteristics of the Act described above are not unique to the Consumer Protection Act 1986 of India. Such features are also found in the statutes of several other countries.
Redress mechanism under the Consumer protection Act, 1986
Unique to the Indian statute and of far reaching impact is three other important features focusing on providing redress. Consumer associations can bring an action on behalf of individual consumers, a class action may be instituted and a unique and highly effective redress mechanism has been established. These are described below.
Action by a consumer organization
The Act provides for an action to be brought by a consumer organization on behalf of a Consumer.
A complaint regarding any goods sold or delivered, or any service provided, may be filed with the relevant consumer redress agencies amongst others by “any recognized consumer association, whether the consumer to whom the goods sold or delivered or service provided is a member of such association or not” (section 12(b)). The Explanatory Note to this section stipulates that for the purpose of the section, “recognized consumer association means any voluntary consumer .association registered with the Companies Act 1956, or any other law for the time being in force”.
The Act also provides for class action – a complaint, in relation to any goods sold or delivered or agreed to be sold or delivered or any service provided or agreed to be provided may be filed with a District Forum, by ” …[amongst others]… one or more consumers, where there are numerous consumers having the same interest, with the permission of the District’ Forum, on behalf of, or for the benefit of, all consumers so interested;…” (section 12).
Consumer disputes redress agency
The Act established a consumer disputes redress agency at the district, state and national levels parallel to but separate from the hierarchy of the courts that already existed.
Composition of District Forum, State Commission and the National Commission
The composition of these agencies (known as the -District Forum, State Commission and the National Commission), the . evidentiary and procedural rules that govern them and the remedies that they can provide ensure the efficacy of these agencies. The redress agencies comprise three persons at the district and state level and five persons at the national level. The President at each level is to be a judge or person who has been a judge (or in the case of the District Forum a person qualified to be a judge). The President is intended to ensure that the decisions arrived at are judicious. The other members of the redress agencies, two each at the district and state level but four at the national level, are to be persons of ability, integrity and standing, and have adequate knowledge or experience of, or shown capacity in dealing with, problems, relating to economics, law, commerce, accountancy, industry, public affairs or administration, one of whom shall be a woman.
Tenure of the Forum or Commission
A member of the redress agency is permitted to hold office for a term of five years or up to 65 years of age in the case of the District Forum and State Commission, and 70 years in the case of the National Commission, whichever is earlier, and is not eligible for reappointment.
Terms and conditions of service
The remuneration, terms and conditions of the members of the district forum and state Commission are determined by the State Governments and those of the National Commission by the Central Government.
Criticism that the redress agencies were stacked with political appointees and inappropriate persons led to an amendment of the Act. A selection committee now chooses the members at each level. For the District Forum and State Commissions the selection committee comprises the Secretaries of the Department of Law and the Department responsible for consumer affairs and the President of the State Commission. In the case of the National Commission a Judge of the Supreme Court of India nominated by the Chief Justice of India substitutes for the President of the State Commission.
Power, functions and jurisdictions of the redress agencies
The District Forum can entertain complaints where the value of the goods or services and the compensation claimed does not exceed Rupees 500,000. The State Commissions can entertain complaints the value of which exceed Rupees 500,000 but are less than Rupees 2,000,000. Claims in excess of Rupees 2,000,000 have to be referred, to the National Commission. The State Commission also- serves as a supervisory agency and has the power to call for the records and pass appropriate orders in any dispute pending or decided by the District Forum. The State Commission also serves as an appeal agency for decisions at the District Forum but the appeal has to be ordinarily lodged within thirty days of a decision being made by the District Forum. The National Commission similarly acts as an- appeal agency for decisions of the State Commission. Where the National Commission has served as the court of first instance the Supreme Court of India acts as the court of appeal.
As noted earlier, an important feature of the redress established by the Indian Consumer Protection Act 1986 is the very liberal rules as to standing. An aggrieved consumer may herself/ himself bring an action or may seek the assistance of any recognized consumer association. The rules also permit representative and. class actions, and actions by state and central governments.
Procedure of the Redress agencies
The Act does not specify the manner in which a complaint needs to be lodged with the redress agency and in practice any manner of complaint (be it a letter or even verbal complaint) is acted on by the District Forum. A complaint has to be decided or disposed of within 90 days. Where the complaint is in respect of defective goods and where it requires laboratory tests the complaint has to be dealt with in 150 days. No court fees are payable. There is however no bar on the parties seeking legal representation.
The District Forum then refers the complaint to the opposite parry directing that other party to give his version of the case within a period of thirty days. If the complaint is denied or refuted or there is no response from the other party, the court will proceed to deal with the complaint. The District Forum is entitled to require where necessary tests to be conducted on goods complained of at approved laboratories at the expense of the complainant. The parties are then given an opportunity to be heard. Every proceeding before the District Forum is deemed to be a judicial proceeding.
Remedies that may be provided by the Redress Agencies
The District Forum has the same powers as are vested in a Civil Court and these include the power to summon and ‘enforce attendance and examine any defendant or witness, the discovery and production of evidence, and, the reception of affidavit evidence. The District Forum is also empowered to award a wide range of remedies:
# Repair, replacement or return of the price paid for the goods;
# Compensation for any loss or injury suffered by negligence of the party complained of;
# Removal of the defect or deficiencies of the service provided;
# Injunctions to discontinue the unfair or restrictive trade practice, to withdraw and not offer hazardous goods for sale;
# Adequate costs to the parties.
# The State and National Commissions exercise the same powers as that of the District Forum for complaints within their jurisdiction.
Consumer Protection in Nepal
The Consumer Protection Act, 1998 of Nepal came into force on 13 April 1999. The Act has a total of 30 sections. It establishes the Consumer Protection Council. Amongst the functions, duties and powers of the Council include advising the government on matters relating to the protection of the rights and interests of consumers, prices, quality and purity of consumer goods and services, disseminating information, conducting studies, and advising the government on policies relating to the protection of the rights and interests of consumers. The Act also regulates the powers given to Inspection Officers to inspect, investigate or search any place where there are reasonable grounds to believe that consumer goods or services which are not safe, efficacious or of the prescribed standard are being produced, sold or supplied.
Consumer Protection In Pakistan
The Islamabad Consumers Protection Act 1995 took immediate effect upon its enactment and extends only to the Islamabad Capital Territory. The Act provides for the promotion and protection of the interests of consumers. The Act has a total of 12 sections.
Islamabad Consumers Protection Council
The’ Act establishes the Islamabad Consumers Protection Council. The functions of the Council are to determine, promote and protect the rights of consumers and formulate polices for the fair and honest trade practices by manufacturers, producers and suppliers of goods and services.
Consumer’s rights under the Act, 1995 in Pakistan
Section 5 provides for consumer rights as follows: the right of protection against marketing of goods, which are hazardous to life and property; the right to information about the quality, quantity, potency, purity, standard and price of goods and services; the right of access to a variety of goods at competitive prices; the right for redress against unfair trade practices or unscrupulous exploitation of consumers; and the right of consumers’ education.
Unfair Trade Practices
Section 2 (f) of the Act defines thirteen types of conduct, which would be considered as unfair trade practices. Section 8 of the Act provides for the manner in which consumer complaints will be dealt with by the Islamabad Court of Sessions. Prior to the enactment of the Islamabad Consumers Protection Act 1995, the Sale of Goods Act 1930 has been in force in Pakistan since 1 July 1930. ”
Consumer Protection in Sri Lanka
The Consumer Protection Act 1979 came into effect on 1 January 1979. The Act provides for consumer protection, regulation of internal trade .and the establishment of fair trade practices. The Act is organized into four parts and has a total of 37 sections. The Act creates the Office of Commissioner of Internal Trade and assigns wide powers to the Commissioner that permit for creative, effective and expeditious intervention in the market place to ensure protection of consumers and fair trading. The Act was amended on three occasions – 1980, 1992 and 1995. The 1980 amendment introduced a novel feature -the Consumer Protection Fund. Contributions to the fund comes from fines imposed by the courts for offences under the Act, 50% of the proceeds of the sale of any articles forfeited under the Act, grants or donations to the fund, and any sums of money voted by Parliament for the purpose of consumer education. The Commissioner is authorized to make payments from the fund for the promotion, assistance and encouragement of consumer organizations and for consumer education and information dissemination.
Consumer Rights Protection in Bangladesh
The Government has enacted the Consumer Rights Protection Act, 2009 to protect the rights of the consumers. This is a pragmatic approach of the Government to ensure consumer’s right that ultimately ensures right to life.
“The Constitution of Bangladesh, under its ‘fundamental principles of state policy’ part, recognizes the rights of consumers to a limited extent. The provisions of consumer protection can be found at Articles 15 and 18 of the Constitution. However, these provisions are mainly focused on the vital issues of ‘health’ and ‘food’ than on other consumer rights. Moreover, the said provisions are mentioned under the ‘fundamental principles of state policy’ part and not under the ‘fundamental rights’ part of the Constitution. Hence, they remain mostly non-enforceable in the courts of law.
Apart from the said Constitutional provisions, Bangladesh also has a few specific consumer protection legislations which are ‘scanty,’ ‘scattered over a whole range of enactments’ and are ‘only indirectly related to the protection of consumer interests’ [Mizanur Rahman, ‘Consumer Protection in Bangladesh: Law and Practice’ (1994) 17(3) Journal of Consumer Policy 349]. Some of such specific legislations include the Control of Essential Commodities Act 1957, the Pure Food Ordinance 1956, the Price and Distribution of Essential Commodities Ordinance 1970, the Bangladesh Drugs Control Ordinance 1982, the Breast-Milk Substitute (Regulation of Marketing) Ordinance 1984, the Tobacco Goods Marketing (Control) Act 1988, the Pure Food (Amendment) Act 2005 etc. Further, there are certain legislations, part of which has got direct bearings on consumer protection.. For example, sections 264-267, 272-276/478-483 of the Bangladesh Penal Code I860, the Poison Act 1919, the Dangerous Drug Act 1930, the Trade Mark Act 1940, the Animals Slaughter (Restriction) and Meat Act 1957, the Special Powers Act 1974, the Standards of Weights and Measures Ordinance 1982, the Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institute Ordinance 1985, the Narcotics (Control) Act 1990, and the Safe Blood Transfusion Act 2002, etc.”
The basic problems of the existing consumer Laws of Bangladesh are-
(1) Under the existing legal regime, the aggrieved consumers themselves cannot go to the court to sue against the violators. It is only the designated government officials empowered under these laws, who can initiate and sue against the violators.
(2) The provisions of penalty or punishment under the current laws are so negligible that nobody cares to abide by such laws; and
(3) Finally, the laws are not effectively enforced.
Even no law ensures proper legal action against the fraudulent and unfair trade practices except the ‘Monopolies and Restrictive trade practices (Control & Prevention) Ordinance,. 1970 in a limited scale. There should have some directives for unlawful trade practices like in European Countries. We have already discussed various provisions of different laws of Bangladesh on consumer’s rights in the ‘product safety’ and “product and service liability chapter.”
The Consumer Rights situation in the sub-continent is praise-worthy. In many countries the Government is very much strict in executing the Law. The Govt. of Bangladesh should be more serious to the subject.
Chapter 4; Consumer Rights in Islam: From Legal and Religious perspectives
The consumer rights in Islam are protected through the Shari’a Law on trade and commerce mechanisms. Islam prohibits” some types of trade and provides specific principles for lawful trade and commerce. Islam accepts markets as the basic coordinating mechanism of the economic system. Islamic teaching holds that the market, through perfect competition, allows consumers to .obtain desired goods, producers to sell their goods, at a mutually acceptable price. –
The three necessary conditions for an operational market are said to be upheld in Islamic primary sources:
- Freedom of exchange
- Private ownership
- Security of contract
Islam ensures economic security. This point is best explained again in the letter Imam Ali (a.s.) wrote to his governor in Egypt, Malik al-Ashtar:
“Then I want to caution you about the poor. Fear Allah about their condition and your attitude towards them. They have no support, no resources and no opportunities. They are poor, they are destitute and many of them are crippled and unfit for work Some of them, come out begging and some (who maintain self-respect) do not beg, but their condition screams about their distress, poverty, destitution and wants. So, protect them and their rights. Allah has laid the responsibility of this on your shoulders. You must fix a share for them from the government treasury. Beside this reservation in cash, you must also reserve a share in kind of crops…etc. from government grain stores in cities, in which such grain are collected and cultivated on state-owned lands. Because in this collection, the share of those living far away from any particular city is equal to the share of those living nearby”.
Islamic Economic system
The Islamic Economic System is based on the following fundamental principles:
- Earning and expenditure by Halal means
Islam has prescribed laws to regulate earnings and expenditure. Muslims are not allowed to earn and spend in. any way they like. They must follow the rules of the Qur’an and the Sunnah:
- Any earnings from the production, sale and distribution of alcoholic drinks are unlawful (Haram), as are earnings from gambling, lotteries and from interest (Riba) transactions (5:90-91,2:275).
- Earning by falsehood, deceit, fraud, theft, robbery and burglary is unlawful. Deceitful acquisition of orphans’ property has been particularly banned (2:188, 4:2, 6:152, 7:85, 83:1-5).
- Hoarding of food stuff and basic necessities, smuggling and the artificial creation of shortages are unlawful (3:180, 9:34-35).
- Earnings from brothels and from such other practices which are harmful to society are also unlawful (24:23).
Islam strikes at the root of the evil and wants to establish a just and fair society. A Muslim must earn his living in Halal ways and he should always bear in mind that what ever he does, it is known to Allah. He will be accountable for his actions on the day of judgment. He cannot hide anything from Almighty Allah.
Unlawful expenditure is also not allowed in Islam. It does not at all befit a Muslim to spend money irresponsibly. His actions should be responsible and meaningful. Extravagance and waste are strongly discouraged (7:31, 17:26, 19:27-31,25:68i).
- Right to property and individual liberty
Islam allows a person to own his earnings. The Islamic state does not interfere with the freedom of speech, work and earnings of an individual provided this freedom is not harmful to the greater good of society. Every individual will be answerable to Allah swt for his or her actions (4:7, 36:71, 16:111).
- System of Zakah (welfare contribution)
Compulsory payment of Zakah is one of the main principles of an Islamic economy. Every Muslim who owns wealth more than his needs must pay the fixed rate of Zakah to the Islamic state. Zakah is a means of narrowing the gap between the rich and the poor.’ It helps the fair distribution of wealth. It is a form of social security. The Islamic state is responsible for providing the basic necessities of food, clothing, housing, medicine and education to every citizen. No-one should have any fear of insecurity or poverty (9:69, 103, 98:5).
- Prohibition of interest (Riba)
An, Islamic economy is free of interest. Islam prohibits all transactions involving interest. Interest is neither a trade nor a profit. It is a means of exploitation and concentration of wealth. The Qur’an says:
“They say, trade is like interest and Allah has allowed trade and prohibited interest.” (2:275). .
“Whatever you pay as interest, so that it may increase in the property of (other) men, it does not increase with Allah. “(30:39).
“O you who believe, do not take interest, doubling and quadrupling, and keep your duty to Allah, so that you may prosper.” (3:130).
“O you who believe, observe your duty to Allah and give up | what remains (due) from interest, if you are believers. But if ! you do not do it, then be warned of war from Allah and His messenger; and if you repent, then you shall have your capital. Do not exploit and be not exploited.” (2:278-279).
Interest is the basis of modern capitalism. It is completely opposite to Zakah. Zakah channels wealth from the rich to the poor while interest takes away wealth from the poor and hands it over to the rich.
Modern economics are so inter-linked with interest that people may think it is impossible to go without it. The situation is really very complex. But, we must aim at getting rid of interest. Unless people fight against the tyrant rulers and establish an Islamic state -the problems will still be there. Further, until Islamic state established, it will make us feel impossible to solve this Riba (interest) problem.
Allah (swt) has not imposed on us something impossible. An interest-free economy will be a boon for all peoples of the world.
- Law of Inheritance (Mirath)
The Islamic law of inheritance is a wonderful system of stopping the concentration of wealth. It provides very detailed laws regarding the rights of dependents over the property of the deceased person. Suratun Nisa (chapter four) of the Qur’an deals with the law of inheritance in great detail(4:7-12, 4:176).
Free market economy & price manipulation
Islam promotes a market free from interferences such as price fixing and hoarding. Government intervention, however, is tolerated to ensure public interest under specific circumstances. Islam prohibits the fixation of a price by a handful of buyers or sellers who have become dominant in the market. Hazrat Mohammad (SM) condemned monopoly practice since it caused injury both to the producers (who in the absence of numerous customers were forced to sell goods at a lower price) and the inhabitants of Medina.
Interference in the Free Market
Said the Prophet (peace be on him), A resident (of the town) must not sell for a man from the desert. If people are left alone, Allah will give them provision from one another. (Reported by Muslim.)
This significant expression of the Prophet’s, “If people are left alone, Allah will give them provision from one another,” establishes a basic principle in the field of commerce: that the market, its prices, and sales, should be left free to respond to internal economic forces and natural competition without manipulation. When Ibn ‘Abbas was asked about the meaning of “A resident must not sell for a man from the desert,” he replied, “The resident should not .be a broker for him.”(Reported by al-Bukhari.) From this we understand that if someone were to inform the man from the desert about prices,
proffering him good advice and telling him about prevailing market prices without charging him a commission, there would be no harm in it, for giving good advice is part of the religion; in fact, a sound hadith states, “Religion is the givingof good advice,” (Reported by Muslim.) and, “If someone asks your advice, advise him.” (Reported by Ahmad.)
When the prices became high in the Prophet’s time and people asked him to fix prices for them, he replied, Allah is the One Who fixes prices, Who withholds, Who gives lavishly, and Who provides, and I hope that when I meet Him none, of you will have a claim against me for any injustice with regard to blood or property. (Reported by Ahmad, Abu Daoud, al-Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, al-Dari and Abu Y’ala.)
If, however, any artificial forces, such as hoarding and manipulation of prices by certain merchants, interfere in the free market, public interest takes precedence over the freedom of such individuals.
The hadith cited above relates to the first type of situation. Accordingly, if merchants are selling a commodity in the customary fashion without any wrong-doing on their part and the price subsequently rises due to the scarcity of the commodity or due to an increase in population (indicating the operation of the law of supply and demand), this circumstance is from Allah, in which case to force them to sell the commodity at a fixed price would be unjust compulsion.
In relation to the second type of situation, should the dealers in a commodity refuse to sell it, despite the fact that people are in need of it, unless they secure a. price higher than its known value, they must be compelled to sell it at a price equal to the price of an equivalent commodity. Price control here means nothing more than establishing comparable prices for equivalent commodities and it is therefore in conformity with the standard of justice demanded by Allah Ta’ala. (Refer to Risalat al-hisbah by Ibn Taimiyyah, as well as to Al-turuq al-hikmiyyah by Ibn al-Qayyim, p. 214 ff.)
Consumers Right to information
Producers and consumers should not be denied information on demand and supply conditions. Producers are expected to inform consumers of the quality and quantity of goods they claim to sell. Some scholars hold that if an inexperienced buyer is swayed by the seller, the consumer may nullify the transaction upon realizing the seller’s unfair treatment.
Object of trade and commerce
The object of trade and commerce is to gain either necessary livelihood or to gain enormous wealth. The latter is the root of attachment to the world which is the basis of all sins.
Four things are necessary in earnings (1) Lawful earnings, (2) Justice, (3) Kindness and (4) Fear of religion.
(1) Lawful and Unlawful Earnings.
Earnings can be searched in six ways:
(a) Bargaining in buy and sale,
(b) trade on interest,
(c) taking advance payment,
(d) to work on wages for labour and to accept pay and rental,
(e) to do business through others advancing capital, and
(f) joint business in fixing shares.
To know the rules of Shariat in these concerns is compulsory, as to search knowledge is compulsory for every Muslim.
It was reported that Omar used to visit the markets and instruct some inexperienced tradesmen on whipping them and say: Nobody shall carry on business in our markets who has got no knowledge of business.
(a) Bargaining in buy and sale
There are three subjects in it,
(1) Buyer and seller,
(2) commodities for sale,
(3) contract for buy and sale.
(i) Buyer and seller,
No transaction is valid with a minor, insane, slave or blind man except with the consent of his lawful guardian or representative. It is lawful to have transaction with an unbeliever but it is unlawful to sell arms to them.
(ii) Commodities for sale.
There are six conditions in it.
(1) These must not be impure, such as dog, pig, dung, stool, wine, teeth of elephant, fat of impure animals.
(2) Things of sale should be beneficial and necessary. Scorpions, rats, snakes and worms and insects under the earth are unlawful for transactions. Instruments of songs, toys idols of animals are not lawful for buy and sale. Clothes on which there are animal pictures are not lawful for sale.
(3) Commodities for sale must be in possession of the seller.
(4) These should be fit for transfer according to Shariat. A fugitive slave, fish in water, birds in air, foetus in womb of an animal, milk in udder cannot lawfully be sold.
(5) Things for sale must be known, fixed and certain and not unfixed and uncertain.
(6) Things to be sold must be in the possession of the owner. If the buyer sells it before possessing it, it will be unlawful.
The Prohibition of Selling Haram Goods
Trading in goods which are normally used for committing sin is haram. Examples of such things are swine, intoxicants, and other prohibited foods in general, as well as idols, crosses, statues, and the like. Permitting the sale or trade of such articles implies promoting and propagating them among people, and consequently encouraging them to do what is haram, while prohibiting their sale implies suppressing and ignoring them, thereby preventing people from coming into contact with them. The Prophet (peace be on him) said, “Surely, Allah and His Messenger have prohibited the sale of wine, the flesh of dead animals, swine and idols,” (Reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim.) and also, “When Allah prohibits a thing, He prohibits (giving and receiving) the price of it as well.” (Reported by Ahmad and mAbu Daoud.)
(iii) Contract for buy and sale
The contract for buy and sale must be expressed in clear and unambiguous terms. Intention plays an important part in it. No condition can lawfully be imposed by one. party after agreement is final. Auction sale is lawful if the terms are proclaimed before hand. Imam Shafeyi held such auction as unlawful.
If a buyer buys from a poor maji, there is no harm to buy at a higher price to show good to him and to enter into this prayer of the Prophet: May Allah like a person who makes his buy easy and purchase easy? When he purchases a thing from a rich man, he may search for additional profit. Sayyidna Omar did not do any deceit and nobody could ever deceive him.
To show good and to treat well at the time of acceptance of price and realization of dues. It is expressed in three ways
(1) to accept less price at times;
(2) to grant time when realizing the dues; and
(3) to demand in a good manner.
The Prophet said: May Allah show mercy on easy purchase, easy sale, easy payment of price and easy payment of debt.
The Prohibition of a Sale Involving Uncertainty
the Prophet (peace be on him) forbade any kind of transaction which could lead to a quarrel or litigation due to some uncertainty (See the chapter on “The Prohibition of al-Gharar (Transactions Involving Uncertainty)” in Muslim and others.) or which involved an unspecific quantity to be exchanged or delivered. This includes the sort of transaction in which there is no guarantee that the seller can deliver the goods for which he receives payment. Accordingly, the Prophet (peace be on him) forbade accepting money for a stallion’s or male camel’s covering, for fish in the water or. birds in the air which one has not caught, or for the offspring of a camel still in the female’s womb, since there is an element of uncertainty as to the outcome in all such transactions.
The Prophet (peace be on him) observed that people sold unripened fruits which were still in the fields or orchards; if the crop were destroyed by blight or some natural calamity, the buyer and seller would quarrel over who was to bear the loss. Hence, the Prophet (peace be on him) prohibited the sale of fruit until they were clearly in good condition (Reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim.), unless they were to be picked on the spot Similarly, he forbade selling ears of corn until they were white and safe from bright, (Reported by Muslim) saying, “Tell me why, if Allah withholds the fruit, any of you should take his brother’s property.” (Reported by al-Bukhari and others.)
However, not every sale involving what is unknown or uncertain is prohibited; for example, a person may buy a house without knowing the condition of its foundation or what is inside the walls. What is prohibited is selling- something about which there is an obvious element of uncertainty which may lead to dispute and conflict, or may result in the unjust appropriation of other people’s money. Again, if the risk of uncertainty is small—and this is determined by experience and custom—the sale is not prohibited. For example, one may sell root vegetables such as carrots, onions, and radishes while they are still in the ground, or fields of cucumbers, watermelons and the like. In the opinion of Imam Malik, all such sales of needed items in which the margin of risk is bearable are permissible. (In Al-qawa’id al-nuraniyyah, p. 118, Ibn Taimiyyah says: “The principles laid down by (Imam) Malik concerning sales are superior to those of others, because he took them from Sa’id ibn al-Musayyib, who is the best authority on the fiqh (jurisprudence) of sales.” Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal’s opinion is close to that of Malik.)
The Permissibility of Brokerage
Brokerage is permissible, since it is a sort of mediation and connection between the buyer and the seller, which in many cases facilitates a profitable transaction for at least one of them or for both.
In modern times, middlemen have become more necessary than at any time in the past because of the complexities of trade and commerce, which involve all types of exports and imports, and wholesale and retail sales and purchases; brokers play a very important role in keeping things moving. There is nothing wrong, therefore, with the broker’s charging a commission for his services. The commission may be a fixed amount or proportional to the volume of sales, or whatever is agreed upon among the parties involved. Al-Bukhari states in his Sahih. Ibn Sirin, ‘Ata, Ibrahim, and Hassan saw nothing wrong with commissions charged by brokers. Ibn ‘Abbas said, ‘There is no harm if one person says to another, “Sell this robe, . and if you sell it for more than such and such a price, you may keep the extra amount.'” Ibn Sirin said, There is nothing wrong if one person says to another, “Sell it for this price and keep the profit, or the profit will be shared between you and me.”‘ The Prophet (peace be on him) said, ‘The Muslims must abide by their terms.’ (This hadith is reported by al-Bukhari with the chain of transmitters which does not reach back to the Prophet (peace be on him); however, Ahmad, Abu Daoud, al-Hakim, and others have a complete chain of transmitters)
The Condemnation of Hoarding
Freedom for individual and natural competition in the marketplace is guaranteed by Islam. Nevertheless, Islam severely condemns those who, driven by ambition and greed, accumulate wealth at the expense of others and become rich by manipulating the prices of food and other necessities. This is why the Prophet (peace be on him) denounced hoarders in very strong words, saying, “If anyone withholds grain for forty days out of the desire for a high price, Allah will renounce him.” (Reported by Ahmad, al-Hakim, Ibn Abu Shaybah, and al-Bazzar.) He also said, “If anyone withholds goods until the price rises, he is a sinner.” (Reported by Muslim.)
The Prophet (peace be on him) also said, “The man who hoards goods is evil. If prices fall he is grieved and if they rise he is happy” (Razi has mentioned this had.ith in his Jami’ah.), thereby exposing the selfish and greedy mentality of hoarders. Again, he said, “He who brings goods to the market is blessed with bounty, but he who withholds them is cursed.” (Reported by Ibn Majah and al-Hakim.)
There are two ways of making a profit in a business. One is to withhold the commodity from the market until it becomes scarce and those who need it are unable to find it; then, compelled by their need, they come to the hoarder and pay him the price he demands, although it may be unreasonably high. The other way is to put the commodity on the market, sell it for a reasonable profit, buy more goods and sell them in like manner,, and so on. Since this latter practice serves the public interest, a merchant who practices it is both blessed by Allah and well-provided for, as the foregoing hadith states.
A very important hadith concerning hoarding and manipulating prices has been narrated by M’aqal bin Yassar, a companion of the Prophet (peace be on him). The Umayyed governor, ‘Ubaidullah bin Ziyad, came to visit M’aqal when he was bedridden due to a grave illness. After inquiring about his condition, ‘Ubaidullah asked him, “Do you know of any instance of my having wrongfully shed someone’s blood?” M’aqal replied that he did not. “Do you know of any instance,” ‘Ubaidullah continued, “in which I interfered with the prices of the Muslims’ goods?” M’aqal again replied that he did not know. Then M’aqal asked the people to help him to sit up, which they did. He then said, “Listen, O ‘Ubaidullah, and I will tell you something which I heard from the Messenger of Allah (peace be on him). I heard the Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) say, ‘Whoever interferes with the prices of the Muslims’ goods in order to raise them deserves that Allah should make him sit in the Fire on the Day of Resurrection.’ “Did you hear this from Allah’s Messenger (peace be on him)?” asked ‘Ubaidullah, and M’aqal replied, “More than once or twice.” (Reported by Ahmad and al-Tabarani.)
On the basis of the text ahd content of these foregoing ahadith, scholars have deduced that hoarding is prohibited under two conditions: one, that hoarding at a given time is injurious to the people of that country, and two, that the hoarder’s aim is to force the price up in order to make more profit. It is, therefore, prohibited to hoard up food stuffs for getting greater profit, but it is connected with the kinds of food and time. It is not prohibited to hoard up such kinds of thing which are not principal food stuffs for livelihood, such as medicine, Saffron etc. There are differences of opinion with regard to the hoarding of things which are near principal food stuffs, such as meat, fruits and such kinds of food which appease hunger and which are taken as alternatives of principal crops.
When there is famine, it is harmful then to hoard up even honey, clarified butter, meat and such things. So the legality and illegality of hoarding of food stuffs becomes according to the harms caused or not caused to the public.
Exploitation and Fraud,
In order to prevent the manipulation of the market, the Prophet (peace be on him) also prohibited what is termed najash. (Reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim.) Ibn ‘Umar
explained that najash signifies someone’s bidding for an itemin excess of its price without having any intention of actually buying it, but merely in order to induce others to bid still higher. Many times this is pre-arranged for the purpose of
deceiving others. Among the variety of measures which the Prophet (peace be on him) took to keep business transactions as far removed as possible from all kinds of exploitation and fraud was that of prohibiting people from going out of town to buy merchandise which was on its way to the market, telling them to wait until it was brought to the marketplace. (Reported by Muslim, Ahmad, and Ibn Majah.) The reason for this prohibition is that the market place, where the forces of demand and supply determine prices, is the best place for trading transactions. If . someone goes out of town to buy from a trader who is bringing merchandise, there is a possibility that the seller, not knowing the current price of his merchandise, may be defrauded. If anyone does buy some of his merchandise in this manner, the seller has the option of canceling the transaction after arriving at the marketplace. (Reported by Muslim.)
“He Who Deceives Us Is Not of Us”/ Not Conceal Defects of Commodities
Islam prohibits every type of fraud and deception, whether it be in buying and selling or in any other matter between people. In all situations the Muslim must be honest and truthful, holding his faith dearer than any worldly gain. The Prophet (peace be on him) said, Both parties to a butransactioh have a right to cancel it as as they have not separated. If they tell the truth and make everything clear, they will be blessed in their transaction, but if they lie and conceal anything, the blessing will be blotted out. (Reported by al-Bukhari.) He also said, It is not permissible to sell an article without making everything (about it) clear, nor is it permissible for anyone who knows (about its defects) to refrain from mentioning them. (Reported by al-Hakim and al-Bayhaqi.)
Once, when passing by a grain merchant, the Prophet’s curiosity was aroused. He thrust his hand into the heap of grain and found it wet. “What is this, O merchant?” he asked.
“It is because of rain,” ‘the man replied. The Prophet (peace be on him) then said to him, “Why did you not p,ut it on top so that the people could see it? He who deceives us is not of us.” (Reported by Muslim.)
In another report it is said that he passed by a heap of grain which was made to look good by the merchant. The Prophet (peace be on him) put his hand into it and found it to be bad. He told the merchant, “Sell the good and the bad separately. He who deceives us is not of us.” (Reported by Ahmad.) The Prophet(SM) said: When the buyer and seller tell truth and wish good, blessing is given to their transaction. When they conceal and tell falsehood, blessing is withdrawn from them.
The Muslims of earlier times strictly observed the practices of exposing the defects of what they sold, of telling the truth, and of giving good advice. When Ibn Sirin sold a sheep, he told the buyer, “I would like to tell you about a defect it has: it kicks the fodder.” And when al-Hassan bin Salih sold a slave girl he told the buyer, “Once she spat up blood.” Although she had done this only once al-Hassan’s Muslim conscience required that he mention the fact, even if it resulted in his receiving a lower price.
In Islam it is taught that seven things make the religion of a business man perfect
- Keep your faith firm and perfect and have good intent, in business, at the start of your business.
- Do business with the objects of saving yourself from, depending on others,
- To restrain from the greed of what is with the people,
- To remain satisfied with lawful earnings,
- To earn keeping on the paths of religion and to maintain family.
- Intend to do good to the Muslims and love for them what you love for yourself.
- Follow the path of equity, justice and Ihsan as mentioned above and join good and forbid evils you find in the market.
In Sura “Ar-Rahman, (55), verse-8-9, Allah says:
“That ye exceed not the measure”, “But observe the measure
strictly, nor fall short thereof.”
Chapter 5: Institutional framework on Consumer Protection in Bangladesh
The Courts or Tribunals functioning in Bangladesh for the protection of the consumer’s right
The following courts are functioning to try offences against consumer protection laws:
The Act under which it is established
The Mobile Court Ordinance, 2007
Any public officer or Executive Magistrate authorized by the Govt.
Can give punishment of any amount which is mentioned in any of the Acts in the Schedule can give only pecuniary punishment. But if the fine is not submitted accordingly, he can give imprisonment up to 3 months.
District Session Judge or Metropolitan Session Judge as the case may be.
The Act under which it is established The Special Powers Act, 1974
Every Sessions Judge, Addl. Sessions Judge and Asst. Sessions Judge shall for the areas within his sessions division, be a Special Tribunal for the trial of offences trial by the Special Powers Act, 1974. The Govt. may constitute one or more additional Special Tribunals for some areas which shall consist of a Metropolitan Magistrate or 1st class Magistrate.
Sessions Judge, Addl. Sessions Judge, Asst. Sessions Judge- any sentence authorizer by law for the punishment. Metropolitan Magistrate, 1st class Magistrate- Except death penalty, life imprisonment, imprisonment exceeding 7 years or fine exceeding 10,000 taka.
Appeal To High Court Division within 30 days. In : case of death sentence, the proceeding shall be submitted automatically.
The Act under which it is established
The Drugs (Control) Ordinance, 1982
Consists of a person who is or has been a Sessions Judge and is appointed . by the Govt.
- i) to manufacture, import, distribute, stock or sale of any medicine which is not registered or which has been adulterated; punishment: 10 years rigorous imprisonment or two lakh taka or both and also forfeiture of property, ii) to import any drug raw material without prior approval; punishment: 3 „ years rigorous or 50,000 taka or both and also forfeiture of the property, iii) prescription by the physician of any medicine which is not registered; punishment: 3 years rigorous or two lakh taka or both.
High Court Division
The Food (Special Court)
The Act under which it is established
The Food (Special Courts) Act, 1956
Special magistrate appointed by the Govt. to try an offence under this Act
Notwithstanding anything contained in the Control of Essential Commodities Act, 1956, or in any other law for the time being in force, contravention of any notified order in respect of foodstuffs made or deemed to have been made under the control of Essential Commodities Act, 1956 shall be tried and punishable by Special magistrates appointed under this Act and no other Court shall have any jurisdiction to take cognizance of such offence.
3-years imprisonment or fine or both and also forfeited of the foodstuffs used in committing such offence;
Sessions Judge following the procedure of CrPC
ROLE OF CONSUMERS ASSOCIATION OF BANGLADESH (CAB)
The first nongovernmental, voluntary organization— the Consumer’s Association of Bangladesh (CAB)—for the protection of consumer rights unveiled itself-on February 28, 1978.
Legal Status of CAB
After much efforts, CAB gained government recognition five years after its inception in 1983 when it was registered with the Department of Social Welfare, Government of Bangladesh vide registration no. DHA-01247 dated 14th March 1983 and with the NGO Affairs Bureau vide reg. no. DSS/FDOIR-197 dated 2nd March 1986. CAB is funded by membership fees and by grants form the donors.
CAB expresses that its mission is for empowering people with knowledge and skills for protection of their rights and interests as consumers.
Aims and Objectives
For more than a decade and a half CAB has been working relentlessly for the protection of the rights of the consumers in Bangladesh, to grow awareness among them and to organize them.
Major aims and objectives of CAB are:
- a) To generate awareness among the consumers about their internationally recognized rights and responsibilities as consumers;
- b) Promote consumers education aiming at empowering people with knowledge and skills for protection of their rights and interests as consumers;
- c) To enable consumers to organize themselves in establishing and protecting their rights and interests through organized action;
- d) Encourage and help develop consumers associations and consumer activists groups in the districts and rural levels;
- e) Focus on consumers’ issues and problems arid develop contacts and understanding with different groups, associations, institutions, NGOs and government departments and services in furtherance of the welfare of the general consumers in the country;
- f) Arrange for testing of products and commodities to make the market places safer and consumer friendly;
- g) Provide mediation and legal support to the aggrieved consumers related to violation of their rights and interests involved in the purchase and use of commodities and services;
- h) Undertake research and studies on consumer issues and problems;
- i) Exchange information and knowledge of various actions on consumer protection with national and international organizations and agencies;
- j) To foster and develop contacts and liaison with the national and International organizations having similar .objectives;
- k) To publish educational materials and feed consumers with .information and knowledge on consumerism, consumer issues and problems;
1) Undertake advocacy, representation and lobbying with the policy makers and government for policy changes in favour of consumer protection;
In the Subsequent years, although several other voluntary organizations like Adhunik, Health for All: Society for Protection of Consumer Rights etc. sprang up with the aim of consumer protection, it is still CAB playing the role of the north star in this sphere.
CAB runs a complaint cell to receive Complaints and grievances from the aggrieved consumers. The cell initiates investigations into those complaints and provide redress, in the form of settlement through negotiation and mediation between the parties.
Evaluation of performance of CAB
Today, the CAB network is spread all over Bangladesh through the so-called ‘consumer groups’ and also on “working groups’. The base of the organizational structure of CAB is Thana. Each thana may have several ‘groups’. CAB also maintains regional offices in Barisal, Khulna, Mymensing, Bogra and Sylhet. The regional offices are under the supervision of the national committee which sits at the CAB head-office in the capital city-Dhaka at Segunbagicha.
CAB has not kept itself confined in the sphere of control of commodity price and adulterations only, but has diversified its activities over a whole range of issues including social,, economic and environmental interests of the consumers e.g. health services. In its consumer education programme, CAB publishes a regular newsletter… Consumer voice-engulfing relevant features of consumer interests. Several ‘cells’ function within CAB to monitor the development in respective fields. Featuring prominently among them are Drug policy cell, Complaint section to deal with individual consumer complaints, Environmental cell etc.
Laws made with the insist of CAB
CAB activities directed against breast-milk substitutes started as early as in 1981, well ahead of international efforts in the field, its agitation for a. new drug policy prompted the government to formulate the National Drug Policy in 1982, the 1985 Rules on Pesticides were also promulgated under pressure from CAB. The Government in close association with CAB has enacted a Consumer Rights Protection Act, 2009. Thus, on a national level, CAB has been quite successful in breaking the ice for a better protection of consumer interests.
In cases involving large business interests or multinational enterprises, very often CAB is given threats and is pressurized to drop a particular case from perusing or making it public. Moreover, in a situation when the Locus-standi of CAB to represent individual consumers in litigations before the courts is yet to be established, CAB for redress of grievances, is compelled to initially approach the government officials. Practice of the last few years have shown that big business has •far more avenues to influence the bureaucracy in its favour than CAB can even contemplate. Thus many flagrant violations of the existing consumer protection laws are left unpunished. Recently, a number of such violations have been reported in the press, and there is a quite strong public opinion in support of strong consumer protection legislation. If CAB and the other consumer associations can positively manipulate this public opinion, that itself might be the real safeguard for consumer protection in Bangladesh
The provisions of allocating fund for the National Council through the Consumer Rights Protection Act, 2009 are praise worthy but how far to the extent it shall be used for the benefit of consumers is a serious concern. A Consumer Association is also given the authority to lodge complaint which is excellent. There should have a provision regarding ‘Consumer Dispute Settlement”. A fund should be allocated and raised from fine to compensate the victim for any adulteration of food or violation of this Act or of any other law regarding consumer’s rights.
Chapter 6:Consumer protection in our Laws
Constitutional protection of Consumers in Bangladesh
Bangladesh before 1947 was an integral part of India, from 1947 to 1971 was a Province of Pakistan, and emerged as an independent State in 1971. The Constitution of Bangladesh, which has come into force in 1972, has been recognized as the supreme law of the land. The Constitution has guaranteed two sorts of human rights and fundamental freedoms: Fundamental Principles of State Policy, non-justifiable rights, contained in Articles 8-25, and Fundamental Rights, justifiable rights, contained in Article 26-47. The general protection of the consumers may be derived from principles enunciated by the following provisions of Article 18 of the Constitution: “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, though non-justifiable in its nature, 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 their health and safety. This constitutional safeguard has been strengthened through promulgation of related laws and regulations, though inadequate, so that consumption be proper and appropriate.
Moreover, in the Constitution of Bangladesh some justifiable fundamental rights are incorporated which are connected with the rights of the consumers. As for examples, Article 32 provides that no person shall be deprived of life save in accordance with law; Article 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-alia are enforceable by the Supreme Court of Bangladesh in accordance with Article 102 read with Article 44 of the Constitution.
All these constitutional provisions may be interpreted in favour of the protection of the rights of the consumers. Thus, though there is no specific enactment, but there is constitutional guarantee as to the protection of the rights of the consumers.
Specific Penal Laws Relating to the Protection of Consumers
Besides these above-mentioned constitutional provisions, some laws are related to the protection of the consumers in Bangladesh. To begin with the Penal Code, 1860, in which some of the specific rights of the consumers have been protected. Section 272 of the Code states that whoever adulterates any article of food or drink, so as to make such article noxious as food or drink, intending to sell such article as food, or drink shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to one thousand taka, or with both. Section 273 provides that whoever sells, or offers or exposes for sale, as food or drink, any article which has been rendered or has become noxious shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to one thousand taka or both.
Section 274 provides that whoever adulterates any drug or medical preparation in such a manner as to lessen the efficacy or change the operation of such drugs or medical preparation, or to make it noxious, intending that it shall be sold or used for any medical purpose, as if it had not undergone such adulteration, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to one thousand taka, or with both. Section 275 provides that whoever, knowing any medical or medical preparation to have been adulterated in such a manner as to lessen its efficacy, to change its operation, or to render it noxious, sell the same shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to one thousand taka, or with both. Section 276 states that whoever knowingly sells or offers or exposes for sale any drug or medical preparation as a different drug or medical preparation shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to one thousand taka, or with both.
Section 482 read with sections 478, 479, 480, 481 provides that whoever use any false trade mark or any false property mark shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both. Section 483 provides that whoever counterfeits any trade mark or property mark used by any other person shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.
In this way, the Penal Code, 1860, one of the oldest statute of the country, provides rules for the protection of the consumers. All these rules again introduced in other form in some statutes such as Special Power Act, 1974. Dangerous Drugs Act, 1930. Trade Mark Act, 1940 and Standards of Weights ad Measures Ordinance, 1982, a short description of which have been provided in the following:
The Special Powers Act, 1974, provides more severe penalties than the Penal Code for hoarding or dealing in black-market, smuggling, adulteration of or sale of adulterated food, drink, drugs or cosmetics. The Dangerous Drug Act, 1930, has been passed with a view to vesting in the Government the control over certain operations relating to dangerous drugs- such as cultivation of coco plant, manufacture or possession of opium, cultivation of poppy, manufacture of any manufactured drug- and to increase the penalties for offences relating to such operations. The Trade Mark Act, 1940, provides that every manufactured commodity should have trade mark so that consumer may choose that commodity from among other commodities. There has been provision for registration, so that other manufacturer may not produce any commodity of same quality of the registered trademark.
The Standards of Weights and Measures Ordinance, 1982, has been promulgated to make provision for the establishment of standards of weights and measures based on metric system and units of measurement. The units of weights and measures to be used throughout Bangladesh shall be units known as system international (SI) units. The following will be the units of metric system: (a) the base unit of mass shall be kilogram; (b) the base unit of length shall be metre; (c) the base unit of time shall be second; (d) the base unit of electric current shall be ampere; (e) the base unit of thermodynamic temperature shall be kelvin; (f) the base unit of luminous intensity shall be candela; and (g) the base unit of amount of substance shall be mole.
Sale of Goods Act, 1930 and Its Impact
Before 1930, laws relating to sale of goods has been contained in the Contract Act, 1872. The Contract Act was adequate for that time but by 1983 “clearly needed amendment as a result of the development of modern commerce: The Sale of Goods Act, 1930, repeals and replaces sections 76 to 123 of the Contract Act, 1972. The Act is based on and largely reproduces the English Sale of Goods Act, 1893, itself a successful codification of the English common law.
The Sale of Goods Act, deals with subject matters of contract, condition and warranty, transfer of property, title of property, rights and duties of seller and buyer, rights of unpaid seller against the goods, stoppage in transit, consequence of contract etc.
The whole Act is very much directly related to the protection of consumer. The most important provision for the protection of the consumer/buyer has been contained in section 16, which deals with caveat emptor. The principle of section 16 is based upon the presumption that the buyer is relying on his own skill and judgment when he effects a purchase. “The rule probably originated at a time when goods were mostly sold in open market, and the buyer, therefore, had every opportunity to satisfy himself as to the quality of the goods or their fitness for a particular purpose, and at common law it was presumed that where the buyer could examine the goods, even though he did not do so, he relied upon his own skill Judgment.”
This above discussion reveals the fact that how far the consumer/purchase is protected by the Sale of Goods Act, 1930. This full-fledged legislation has created a positive impact in the marketing system in the country.
Essential Laws and Their Characteristics
In 1956 the Control of Essential Commodities Act, was passed which may be regarded as one of the legislations for the protection of consumers. By that Act the Government from time to time may declare some commodities to be essential commodities and may control production, distribution, preservation, use and business of these commodities. By that law licence and permit systems have been introduced for the control of certain commodities, for compelling the hoarder of commodities to sell goods in a fixed price, to keep proper account of sale of essential commodities. Moreover, there is provision for punishment for breach of law.
In 1959 Pure Food Stuff Ordinance was promulgated with a view to ascertaining production, supply and distribution of pure foodstuff. By this Ordinance the quality and standards of certain foods and drinks should be preserved. Persons with infected diseases are prohibited to take part in the processes of preparation and sale of foodstuff. All these things are examined and inspected by the public health department.
In 1970 the Price and Distribution of Essential Commodities Ordinance was promulgated. The main commodities Ordinance was promulgated. The main object of this Ordinance is to ensure the correct price and distribution of essential commodities in the country so that importers, producers and businessmen may not earn more profits. Under the law the prices of commodities should be attached to them and the list of the price should be hanged in an open place and a receipt for sale of goods must be delivered to the purchaser.
All these three laws, promulgated during the Pakistan era contain provisions for the protection of consumers. All these laws were promulgated for the benefit of the public at large and they are as good as any legislation of a developed country. But as regards their implementation it may definitely be observed that no proper action is being taken.
In 1982 ‘the historic’ Drugs (Control) Ordinance was promulgated with a view to controlling manufacture, import, distribution and distribution of 1707 medicines were prohibited and registration or licence with to them stood cancelled. The Government has been empowered to constitute a Drug Control Committee. No medicine of any kind shall be manufactured for sale. or be imported, distributed or sold unless it is registered with the licencing authority. The Government may fix the maximum price at which any medicine may be sold and any pharmaceutical raw material may be imported or sold. Every manufacture and quality control of drugs recommended by the World Health Organization. Provisions for different punishments for manufacture, import, distribution and sale of unauthorized medicine, of sub- standard drugs, for sale of medicine or import or sale of pharmaceutical raw materials at a higher price, for illegal advertisement and claims have been provided in the Ordinance. This Ordinance is one of the most important legislation, which has a far-reaching impact upon the consumers.
Another historic law in the country is Breast-Milk Substitute (Regulation of Marketing) Ordinance, 1984, the main-aim of which is to promote breast-feeding by regulating the marketing of breast-milk substitute following the general principles of the International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitute, 1981. 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 feeding is equivalent or superior to breast-milk feeding. No person shall promote any breast-milk substitute either by advertisement or by offering or giving any gift, prize, discount coupon, or other free item or by any other means. Breast-milk substitute shall be marketed under the proper instruction as mentioned in the Ordinance. The Ordinance categorically prohibits that the container or any literature kept inside the container shall have any picture of infant or such other picture or writing, which may indealise the use of any breast-milk substitute. The Government may appoint an advisory committee the function of which shall be to advice the government on the proper observation of the International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk substitute. For the contravention of the provisions of the Ordinance, provisions for penalties have been provided therein.
In 1988 Tobacco Goods Marketing (Control) Act was passed. By that Act use of tobacco goods has been controlled and discouraged. “Smoking is injurious to health”, the warning note, must be printed either on the packet or in any part of the container in Bangali. No advertisement display with regard to tobacco goods shall be made without having the warning note of “smoking is injurious to health”. There are provisions for punishment for the contravention of the Act.
Form the above discussion it is evident that in Bangladesh almost all the legal provisions for the protection of the consumers have been provided. If these legal provisions would have been implemented. Bangladesh would have been a welfare society.
The Consumer Protection Act, 2009
In Bangladesh the first draft on consumer protection law was prepared by the Ministry of Commerce in 1998. The Law Commission suggested various changes on October 2000. In 2006, a revised draft of Consumer Protection Act was framed and in 2008, the Non-Party Care-taker Government passed the Law through Ordinances. The Ordinance was not approved by the parliament and the Government passed the Consumer Protection Act, 2009.
Some significant provisions of the Consumer Protection Act, 2009
The Act states various provisions to protect consumer’s rights that include definition of a consumer. The Act establishes a National Consumer Protection Council and a department for the protection of Consumers-rights. Even the District Magistrates i.e. DC’s are authorized to act and exercise all the powers of a Director General to ‘the department concerned. The Director General can examine any products, attach it in case of adulteration or even arrest the offender, if necessary. The various types of punishments under the Law includes-
(i) Punishment for not packing products, etc.
(ii) Punishment for not showing price list
(iii) Punishment for not reserving and showing price list of service
(iv) Punishment for selling product, medicine or service within’ over price than fixed price;
(v) Punishment for selling adulterated product or medicine
(vi) Punishment for mixing forbidden chemicals in food products
(vii) Punishment for producing or processing product in an illegal way
(viii) Punishment of victimizing the general customers by false advertisement
(ix) Punishment of not selling or supplying the promised product or service
(x) Punishment of fraud of weight;
(xi) Punishment of fraud of weight or scales of weighing things;
(xii) Punishment of fraud of measure.
(xiii)Punishment of fraud of gauze or scale used for measuring length
(xiv) Punishment of making or producing counterfeit product
(xv) Punishment of selling any date expired product or medicine
(xvi) Punishment of endangering life or security of service receiver
(xvii) Punishment of damaging money, health, life etc. of the service holder by negligence, etc.
(xviii) Punishment for filing false or vexatious case
(xix) Punishment for committing the same offence
(xx) Attachment etc.
The offences under this Act shall be tried by a Metropolitan Magistrate or a Judicial Magistrate of the 1st Class. No complaint can be entertained by the Court without endorsement- of the Director General of the Department. The Magistrate will not take cognizance of any offence if charge sheet is not submitted within 90 days of lodging complaint under sectionS9. The Magistrate may conduct summary trial following the provisions of the Cr P C. The Magistrate may also examine the product with the help of the experts. A second trial is prohibited under the Law but an appeal can be filed to the Court of Session within 90 days from receiving judgment or order.
Defects of the Act
The Consumer Protection Act 2009 provides that only competent government officers are entitled to institute a case against the culprit for violation of such laws. A common consumer cannot initiate any legal action against him except lodging a complaint to the department concerned. No court shall take cognizance if charge sheet is not submitted within 90 days from the date of compliant. So, the Court is virtually in effective and the power is assumed by the department and they have a wide scope in involving corruption. Traders know it well that the customers are not eligible to institute a suit or take action against them except the Government officials and they also know how to manage such officers. Due to these legal flaws consumers are not duly protected. Therefore, these legal flaws are to be removed with a view to enabling the consumers to institute suit in a court of law identifying the violators of law.
The ignorance of consumers as to their legal protection is one I of the reasons for non-implementation of the legal provisions for their protection. Moreover, people want to avoid legal action due to delay in proceedings and unnecessary expenses and also mental harrasment incurred in a court of law. Following the Indian pattern new law should be introduced for the creation of quasijudicial machineries at the district and national levels- such as Disputes Redressal Forum and National Consumers Disputes Redressal Forum.
In Bangladesh there is no mechanism through which the provisions of the laws, made to safeguard the rights and interests of the consumers, can be placed and explained to them in a simple and impressive manner. As a consequence the general public, whether he be educated or not, remain in darkness with regard to these laws,. In order to create awareness among the public at large it is necessary to hold regular conferences, seminars and meeting to publish advertisements, news through mass media.
The Government machineries from implementing point of view are very weak. As the Government machineries do not work, smoothly, so non-government organizations should come forward with a programme of helping the consumers. In order to co-ordinate the activities of these organizations it is necessary to hold regular meetings and to provide legal aids and assistances to the consumers through a central unit.
There is no political commitment and programme as regards the protection of the consumers. In some cases political parties take help, subscriptions from the businessmen, traders, industrialists who in return hoard goods, create artificial crises in the market and earn unlimited profits at the costs of sufferings of the general electors. Strong political commitment should be created for the protection of the consumers for the avoidance of corrupt businessmen, traders and industrialists.It may be mentioned here that in Bangladesh some of the non-government organizations with regard to protection of consumers have been established and they have been campaigning movement for the legal protection of consumers, for creating awareness about the rights of the consumers, ‘and in some cases giving help and assistance in the way of legal aids. But their role is not adequate as the whole of the society are stricken with innumerable problems— political, social, economic– so their activities, though may be praiseworthy, cannot give due protection to the helpless consumers. As a consequence helpless consumers remain helpless- day-by-day they have been becoming more helpless as well.
Chapter 7: Conclusion
PRACTICAL SITUATION IN BANGLADESH AND RECOMMENDATION FOR IMPROVEMENT
But in Bangladesh a different situation prevails. Here in Bangladesh reality is different from legality. Here foods are found adulterated, commodities are sold in the market without fixed prices, and harmful and unnecessary drugs are being sold. Marketing of breast-milk substitutes is not properly controlled. There is no uniform standard as to weights and measures. The government has no control over marketing as to control of essential goods. Furthermore, no nation-wide movement has yet been launched for the protection of consumers.
In some laws it is provided that only competent government officers are entitled to institute a case against the culprit for violation of such laws. A common consumer cannot initiate any legal action against him. Traders know it well that the customers are not eligible to institute a suit or take action against them except the Government officials and they also know how to manage such officers. Due to these legal flaws consumers are not duly protected, therefore, these legal flaws are to be removed with a view to enabling the consumers to institute suit in a court of law identifying the violators of law.
The ignorance of consumers as to their legal protection is one of the reasons for non-implementation of the legal provisions for their protection. Moreover, people want to avoid legal action due to unnecessary expenses incurred in a court of law. Following the Indian pattern new law should be introduced for the creation of quasi-judicial machineries at the district and national levels- such as Disputes Redressal Forum and National Consumers Disputes Redressal Forum.
In Bangladesh there is no machanism through which the provisions of the laws, made to safeguard the rights and interests of the consumers, can be placed and explained to them in a simple and impressive manner. As a consequence the general public, whether he be educated or not, remain in darkness with regard to these laws. In order to create awareness among the public at large it is necessary to hold regular conferences, seminars and meeting to publish advertisements, news through mass media.
The Government machineries from implementing point of view are very weak. As the Government machineries do not work smoothly, so non-government organizations should come forward with a programme of helping the consumers. In order to co-ordinate the activities of these organizations it is necessary to hold regular meetings and to provide legal aids and assistances to the consumers through a central unit.
There is no political commitment and programme as regards the protection of the consumers. In some cases political parties take help, subscriptions from the businessmen, traders, industrialists who in return hoard goods, create artificial crises in the market and earn unlimited profits at the costs of sufferings of the general electors. Strong political commitment should be created for the protection of the consumers for the avoidance of corrupt businessmen, traders and industrialists.
It may be mentioned here that in Bangladesh some of the non-government organizations with regard to protection of consumers have been established and they have been campaigning movement for the legal protection of consumers, for creating awareness about the rights of the consumers, and in some cases giving help and assistance in the way of legal aids. But their role is not adequate because as the whole of the society are stricken with innumerable problems– political, social, economic– so their activities, though may be praiseworthy, cannot give due protection to the helpless consumers. As a consequence helpless consumers remain helpless– day-by-day they have been becoming more helpless as well.
From the above it is clearly evident that in Bangladesh there are some laws, which may be used for the protection of consumers, but in reality due to aforesaid reasons consumers are not duly protected. Moreover, laws in some cases are inadequate and social movement has not been launched in a large scale. Therefore, a new law should be promulgated following the general principles as enunciated by the United Nations Guideline for the Consumer Protection, 1985, and a nationwide new social movement will have to be launched for the protection of the consumers nationally and internationally. Along with municipal law, international law should be taken to recourse for the protection of the consumers of Bangladesh.