World Consumer Day 15/03/2017 Theme Building a Digital World Consumer Can Trust
Posted on March 12th, 2017
Sarath Wijesinghe-(Solicitor/Attorney-at-law, former Chairman Consumer Affairs Authority, former Ambassador to UAE and Israel)
“World Consumer Day”
World Consumer day (WCD) is an annual event on 15th March every year for celebrations, activism, and solidarity, among the consumer and consumer organizations worldwide. Consumerism has a historical significance until WCD was originated in 1983, and subsequently the Consumer rights were elevated to a position of international recognition and legitimacy by adopting the guidelines by the United Nations. John Kennedy said on 15/2/1962 that consumer by definition includes as the largest economic groups effecting and affected by almost every private and public economic decision, yet they are the only important group whose views are often not heard. Today things have changed as in the “West “where the consumer is organized and powerful. WCD is one of those events of showing strength and power of the consumer. Seminars, workshops and show of activism give a sense of power and strength to the consumer. Junk Food Generation which has an adverse effect on the health of the human being -especially children has been a popular and important topic of the Day. Some topics chosen before were Unethical Drug Promotion (2007), GM Food (2005) Consumers and Water (2004) and Control of Food Chain (2003). Selection of the same topic Junk Food consecutively for two years indicates the importance of the issue. Twenty two million children around the world are already overweight. Mostly children are targeted by multinational organizations as victims. As a result there is a strong campaign to urge the world to introduce an international code on the marketing unhealthy food to children. Consumer rights day depends on initiatives, planned functions and projects carried out by consumer organizations on every continent. This takes the shape of special campaigns press conferences exhibitions, workshops publications and similar events. There are websites, Magazines, books, and on-2going activism worldwide in promoting the activism in the interest of the citizen. Unfortunately in Sri Lanka there is less activism leaving the helpless consumer alone in the hands of errant trader, and
industrialist continue to exploit freely despite inactive regulators led by the Consumer Affairs’ Authority.
Consumer is defined in the Consumer Affairs Authority Act No 9 of 2003, as “any actual user of any goods or services made available for a consideration by a trader or manufacturer” which is a unique and a broader definition from the common law perspective. In a literal sense, a consumer is “one who preachers goods or services” (Longman Dictionary of the English Language, 2nd Ed.) (Harlow: Longman1991) For the purpose of the English consumer protection law, the term consumer has narrower meaning which is based on the capacity in which the consumer and the supplier of the goods and supplied have acted. Until the introduction of the CAA act of 2003-hereafter known as the Act-, by replacing Consumer Protection act, no 1 of 1979, Fair Trading Commission act, no 1 of 1987, and the control of prizes act ( chapter 173) , consumerism in Sri Lanka was primarily governed by English Law principles. Act desires to provide for better protection of consumers through the regulation of trade and the prices of goods and services and to protest traders and manufacturers against unfair trade practices and restrictive trade practices, and promoting competitive pricing wherever possible and ensure healthy competition among traders and manufactures of goods and services. This is a complete transformation of the principle and procedure of price control to Regulation and Competitive trade, which is a mixture of the basis of USA, Australian and European models in practice.
The definition covers actual and potential users of goods and services which gives a further and broader meaning and an area including every citizen worldwide in the definition who is a potential consumer in this competitive and developed world. The standard perception of a consumer is of an individual purchaser of goods or services and in most cases it will be the case. Most of the provisions of the Consumer Credit Act, 1974 (CCA) (U K) only apply where the debtor is an individual under English Law, and generally a non-business purchaser. In Sri Lankan context “any actual user “could be a company or a juristic personality. In the UK much of the legislation can be regarded as being directed towards fair trading rather than consumer protection. Many modern consumer protection measures no longer require proof of fraud. A trader can be found guilty of a criminal offence without proof of criminal intention.
“CAA- Consumer Affairs Authority – the Main Regulators in Sri Lanka”
The main legislations on consumerism in Sri Lanka before and during the introduction of the Act – some of which are replaced, amended, and replaced
were, Consumer Protection Act, Fair Trading Commission Act , Control of Prices act , Trade Marks Ordinance, Prisons, Opium, and Dangerous Drugs Ordinance, Control of Prices Ordinance, Weights and Measures Ordinance, Food and Drugs act, Control of Prizes act, Food Control act, Licensing of Traders act, Bureau of Ceylon Slandered, National Prizes Commission Law, Consumer protection act, Code of Intellectual property act, Petroleum Products act, Food Act, Cosmetic Devoices and Drugs Act, Consumer Credit act, Sri Lanka Standards Institution Act, Fair Trading Commission act, Measurement Unite Standards and Services act, Unfair Contract Terms act. Today the concept of price control is replaced by regulatory powers where it is controlled by regulation indirect means and competition. How far and whether this is a success is a moot issue.
“Are We At The “Door Steps” Of The Digital Age?”
Consumer International selects timely topics in the process of activism for consumers worldwide. It was Fix your phones right, Healthy Dilates in 2015 and Antibiotic Resistance in 2016, which are current and timely then. World is fast reaching digital age with 3 billion world citizens online which is 30% of the world population,1.25 Face book users, when Sri Lanka has 23 million Mobile phomes,5 million internet users and 3.5 million Face Book users which is high on international standards, when almost every citizen has mobile phones with substantial decrease of land lines. E-Bay and online shopping is fast growing with an enormous future potential when consumerism in Sri Lanka is lagging behind with no amendments to the Consumer Affairs’ Authority act still old and archaic with no changes or improvements from 2003, with a question mark on legal protection from the main regulator of the country. Online shopping, credit cards, local digital platforms and worldwide platforms such as eBay, and major players are freely available in Sri Lanka with the clientele increasing fast unnoticed and untouched by the traditional regulatory procedures in the absence of a mechanism and lack of knowledge of the Sri Lankan regulators in the dark on the digital age.
“Building A Digital World the Consumer Can Trust-Theme On 2017-“
CAA is the main regulator in the country on consumerism responsible for regulating quality, standards, prize, and access to consumer items and services at a reasonable prize without poisonous and hazardous consumer items and services of accepted standards to the consumer freely, through regulatory 2powers and activism via the CAA and the organization it is expected to supervise. This mechanism is important as it involves the future, health, wealth and the existence of the Nation. 2017 on the theme consumer in the digital age and we hope the momentum will be gathered and centralized from activism during this period will continue until next year. We wish and pray that all the
parties concerned namely the consumer, trader, manufacturer, industrialist, and the State (CAA and the Ministry of Consumer Affairs) will work hand in hand realizing and aiming at their honourable aims and objects in making the consumer happy and satisfied.
Developing consumer trust is an arduous task in the highly complicated digital atmosphere, on the consumer now at the door steps of the digital age. Digital Storms is blowing away the human mind which is the most advanced computer now depending on artificial intelligence and advanced digital technological developments. We are at the door steps of the modern digital transforming the entire style on the modern advanced systems and innovations in all areas of human life. Consumers are inadequately protected by traditional safeguards provided by respective legal systems worldwide and out-dated regulatory powers in Sri Lanka incapable of meeting the modern challenges in the digital e-com age. Consumer trust will be developed with the modern trends with the success of a mechanism which is not introduced yet meeting the new trends needs and requirements. For example the world and local e- sale-business-transections platforms have their own regulatory powers and remedies due to ferocious competition and self-regulation to safeguard their present and future customers/ consumers in the hands of their mercy. Sections 7,8,9,10,12,13,15,16,17,18,19,21,22,26,27,28,29,30,31,32,34,35,36,39,45, of the act which deals with the operational and conceptual matters have to be adopted/amended to meet the current challenges and a discussion and complete overhaul of the act and the working procedure is an urgent necessary to meet the digital challenges.
“Way Forward For The Happiness And The Satisfaction Of The Consumer”
In the United Kingdom magazine “Which” media, Citizen Advice Bureaux, Legal Aid System, Consumer organizations, NGOs with the State is protecting the consumer with the network of the consumer organizations and consumer groups. Citizen is used to look upon which magazine for directions and information which is a medium for information, advice and guidance, available for the citizen. European Union spreads tentacles over the member countries in safeguarding consumer by/through directions. Consumerism in India is organized and powerful with governmental support, legislation, legal system and separate Consumer Courts for implementation with the Judiciary favouring public interest litigations and class actions as in USA and UK even against giant multinational Cola, and Junk food Chains poisoning and making the entire world potential patents. Consumerism and consumer protection models are organized and effective in the Socialist Block and the Commonwealth with different legal systems. There is uniformity in the
Commonwealth including Canada, Australia, with similar legal systems and Sri Lankan model is a mixture of Australian, UK, models and European concepts. Consumer is powerful and considered to be a King in other parts of the world able to flex muscles on the parties concerned for just and fair treatment on consumerism, with the adage “Consumer is always Right” practised in the competitive trade. It is a satisfactory trend that the CAA, IPS and Consumer Organization led by powerful activists have organized events with the participation of Mr “Satya” representing the World Consumer Federation based in the United Kingdom and we hope a new chapter and a trend will emerge as a result with the influence and participation of the Consumer International , State, Trader, Industrialist, and the Consumer with a joint and a consorted efforts in achieving happiness and satisfaction of the consumer badly in need of assistance. We hope and pray Sri Lanka will have the strength and vision to set up a network of consumer organizations, a proper legal mechanism with amendments to meet the modern challenges, with the concept “alert consumer and just trader”, to work with all concerned parties namely consumer, trader, industrialist and the state hand in hand in the interest of the citizen deserves closer attention. “Author could be reached on email@example.com and the views expressed are that of the author taking responsibility on the contents.”