‘’DIGITALIZATION AND MODERNIZING TRADE BUSIENSS AND CONSUMERISM FOR THE CITIZEN’’
Posted on April 4th, 2021

Sarath Wijesinghe former Chairman Consumer affairs Authority, President’s Counsel, former Ambassador to UAE and Israel, President Ambassador’s forum

Introduction of digitalization during the festive season for sustainable educational framework

World is fast changing despite dangerous ‘’Covid19’’ – a Pandemic leading towards success in Sri Lanka through education on vistas of prosperity and spender in order to digitalize the system and  modernize the  natural knowledge based on human capital to suit the 21st century on the theme ‘’Towards a perfect education that enriches wisdom and experiment’’ on  steps taken by the programme and vision of the President ‘Gotabaya Rajapaksa’ , in education and digitalization on introducing a new platforms and programmes coupled with education, development and other subjects  including trade and international issues- a leap frog from programme for the future. It is a salutary news that Sri Lanka is keeping pace with the modern developments even during the festive season easing the citizen pressurised with pandemic and economic hardships due to economic downturns world over. It is indeed salutary that digitalization and modern international platforms are utilized in combating ‘’Covid 19’’ and development strategies including agriculture which is in the topic of the agenda today.  

Festive season and prices of consumer items in the current legal regime

Festive season is nearing and the talk of the town is the prices of consumer items and the legal frame work which has not still been settled on trade, business, competition and prices of items in demand. There is a leading news by the Minister ‘Bandula Gunawardena’ that Consumer Protection act of 1979 will be amended when in fact it is repealed by the Consumer Affairs Authority Act no 9 of 2003 on 17th march 2003 with other existing legislation amalgamating the current act which is a combination of Australian, Canadian, Modelled system with basic English principles partly embodied in the act which is not a properly effective piece of legislation in action today. It is the duty of the officials to brief the minister on updates on legislature on making such important public statements which are the basis of current and future changes on legislature, when the Minister again claims to change current old and outdated legal structure to be proactive modern and applicable for  the current developments. Minister has quite correctly stated that the current legislation is outdated and is a ‘’toothless lion’’ needing drastic changes and vigour with modern changes on the digital age with new international platforms and developments in line with the changes world over. Act no 9 of 2003 changed the existing (then) pattern and structure of successful concept of price control still in force in the United Kingdom to the current system of regularization of trade also based on competition law and modern commercial law concepts, which has not been understood by the successive regimes attempted to implement the concept introduced by Hon ‘Lalith Atulathmudali’ then Minister of Trade who introduced the legislation with best of intentions which unfortunately unsuccessful on implementation.  Undisputedly change of the CAA act is badly needed and the CAA during successive Chairmen has attempted to do so with no success. It is advisable to seek the advice of the previous chairmen in the process.

 Drastic changes necessary

This is not the time for immediate major drastic changes of law, and best is  to give time and long space for a complete and comprehensive study in the law and practice with international trade and developments which are now interwoven and interlinked. What is news today is the controversy over coconut oil, paddy and rice prices, alleged sugar scam, and rising cost of living due to price rise of every consumer item the CAA has miserably failed to answer. How does the price structure operate in Sri Lanka is very interesting. Trader can sell consumer prizes at any reasonable price provided it is of good quality and of quality health standards in order to provide the prize mark is exhibited on the show room cage for the citizen clearly seen identifying the items, whereas under the previous legislation control of prices act 173 (which is repealed) prize mark was strictly adhered to on conditions on price control legislation with prize control system. Then what is the maximum prize? In the current prize regime and the fluctuation of the prizes of paddy, rice, sugar, coconut ect are  issues confronted to the consumer which is bit hard to understand to follow. It is operative under S/18 of the act when the Minister and the Authority can determine the wholesale and retail prize if the consumer item by a gazette notification with the condition that 18(2). No manufacturer or trader shall increase the retail for wholesale price of any goods of and services specified under subsection (1) except with the prior written approval of the authority. This is not effective and straight as the price control procedure which is working well in UK which is repealed here in 1979. Attempts have been made to change the consumer law on many previous occasions and today we have to be extra cautious due to the modern trends, introduction of new international platforms and changes due to digitalization   process which is ever growing with the mobile penetration of 110% of the population and the developments on the knowledge an practice one learning when village children climbed water tanks for WIFI and the villager got use to what’s up for the payment of water and electricity bills through the network of computer centres at aver junction. A good trend ever increasing in deed! We have to take note of all international trends and changes in framing if any legislation or rules on consumerism in future! School teachers conducted online classed with the help of their computer literate children – our future scientists.

‘’Covid 19 ‘’- do not see and end so soon- let us be ready for any eventuality

‘’Covid 19’’ has changed the entire marketing developments and life of the ordinary citizen including students and the working class. There is no guarantee the ‘’Covid 19’’ will end or a time frame to end thereby we have to live on hopes and be prepared for any eventuality, so that future planning is near impossible. Sri Lankans proved themselves to be adoptable to any adverse conditions or situations on facing for ‘’Covid 19’’ and hardships to citizen all of whom are consumers. Prices of consumer items are going up with ‘’Covid19’’ in addition many other considerations which effects the consumer in all fronts, food being the main consideration. Food that is available should be reasonably prized and of quality as requited by section 7 (a) (b) (c) and (d) which states that it is the duty of the Authority to see that consumer is provided with goods and services not hazardous to the consumers (section 4) protect against unfair trade practices, adequate access to goods and provide redress against exploitation. All this has to be implemented by regulatory powers in part two of the Act. Anti-competitive practices are dealt with in the Consumer Affairs Council also engaged in research and procedure on air trade practices. ‘’Covid 19’’ also has melded the attitudes of the citizen with better relations with the trader consumer, and the regulator, for the trader and industrialist to be fair and the consumer to be smart sharp and careful to have the ideal combination of fair trader, alert consumer and able regulator. Consumer must change attitudes to be simple and smart to ascertain a) when to purchase, b) where to purchase and how to purchase items available. Consumer items to be purchased with required quantities and well planned for the day or week giving priority to health and quality. Fruits should not be purchased from long term stalls and imported fruits and vegetable should be avoided when we have such great verities- for example Banana in UK has only one variety which is available with not much taste when we have so many verities at very reasonable of taste and quality. Fresh vegetables and fruits could be purchased cheap in markets. Cola should not be consumed at any cost which is poisons   and expensive. Why consume bottled water in plastics bottles which can be poisonous, and unhealthy, when we can have boiled and cold water in glass bottles which is cheap and healthy. Where you purchase consumer items is north worthy to note as the best would be ‘Sathosa’ when non-perishables can be stored and it is a good idea for the family to plan out the week or month as an exercise to save and be healthy. During goods online purchase can be practised which can extend to clothes and other consumer items for convenience and safety. Now that the entire life style is changed due to ‘’Covid 19’’, it is time to be prepared to go through it for an unspecified period with changes of future plans. Needless to state that all precautionary measures are to be followed to the last word for a long term solution and healthy stable and happy life with the family.

Bogus Sales, Congestion, perches of varied items and presents to family and friends

Consumer should be aware of rights, duties and the expectations from the trader and the industrialist. It is the duty of the trader to give the consumer dignity, quality goods, and services, at a reasonable price indicated on the rack or the showcase. Consumer has the right to complain to the CAA or a branch office which you will have access form 1919 system, or personal complain to the CAA office or a branch. Telephone and written complaints are accepted and the CAA is prompt on complaints by the consumer who the CAA and the trader considers as top priority. Consumer need not be hesitant to question or complain and it can be done in friendly manner as it is your right to do so. Bogus sales are plenty and the consumer should use common sense in purchasing very cheap items with hidden charges. It is advisable to take your own time in selecting the gods as it is your money that you are parting with. Consumer should know the basic needs rights and duties and expectations from the trader to be a satisfied consumer. When you purchase electric and electronic items one should be careful on the make, quality and the condition you may not be conversant with when you have to be careful on the guarantee/documents/cards and specially the letters in small letters in a language not known to you. It is advisable to demand for a receipt for which you are entitled to and you can request more details on the receipt. Some traders will encourage you to give on credit on hire purchase schemes, and you should be careful in signing documents on conditions with small letters in a language not known to you, and giving your personal information. It is advisable to seek the advice of a known family member generally conversant with trade practices. Always ask for the visiting card and other details of the trader and trading names with contact numbers. It is a joint effort of trader, consumer, regulator, and industrialist for a better consumer regime and a fair trading regime. Especially during festive season be extreme careful of the 8000 drug addicts on the road in Colombo awaiting for preys which can be dangerous with their addictions on drugs. Always be in touch with security forces and loved ones always during exposure to the traders and public.

Quality of consumer items/ Consumer Organisations

Trader is bound to give items of quality to the consumer and finding the quality is an issue always unless it is tested by the standard bureau or tests by a group of consumers. It is imperative for the consumers to be a member of one or more consumer organization which is very forceful in other parts of the world. In the United Kingdom the consumer organizations are very powerful and the trader is obliged to be consumer friendly based on the famous adage that consumer dies no wrong and always correct. Consumer Affairs Authority is expected to assist monitor and encourage consumer organizations as powerful groups though less powerful compared to UK and other parts of the world. Then what about the rice prices, adulterated coconut oil, consumer items of inferior quality, and hiding a storing the consumer items refusing to sale are offence under the consumer liable to be prosecuted. In UK and west the returned items are accepted but sadly not in Sri Lanka, when you can exchange if and when you need to change or return. Consumer organizations should agitate for this right with the help of CAA.

Digitalization modernization and modern trends on trade practices

The quality of goods services of food and consumer items are substandard, and of inferior quality due to lack of supervision and regulation by the CAA and other regulators such as TRCEL insurance, and Trade Ombudsman ,Public health inspectors local councils , health department, and many statutory bodies. With advancement of technology Sri Lankans are at the doorsteps of digitalization with mobile phones in everybody’s hand (110% of the population) and   computer literacy of 40% ever increasing? Younger generation is now armed with excellent computer skills able to use credit cards, advanced banking methods, and engaged in modern technology via face book and other social media  platforms for day to day office with computer centres every corner on the road used by adults. However in Sri Lanka online shopping is not practiced often as in the United Kingdom where 40% of the consumer items are purchased online when the practice is fast used in Sri Lanka too. Sri Lanka  appears to be ready for a leap frog  with the advanced  applicability of modern technology and day to day transections and day will not be too far when the majority of the population makes its purchases online. ‘’Uber’’ a worldwide digital application catering to millions of people worldwide including Sri Lanka. These technologies are expanding to blow drying to food chains when majority of consumer’s population purchases online. ‘’Uber’’ – a main digital  application  catering to millions of customers worldwide including Sri Lanka These techs are  expanding  to bring blow drying and food items to door steps which will revolutionize  online purchasing further.  Digitalization of Education has commenced by setting digital classrooms which equips students and teachers with laptops and tabs how do you make digital regimes fairer in Sri Lanka with outdated regulator CAA with fast developments on technology? We watched on the television an impressive digital class room at ‘’Thurstan College’’ and we understand the trend is fast spreading. Are we in the digital age or in the door steps are the issues to be resolved today. Digitalization in the world   is fast spreading  with adverse effects shedding billions of jobs  with no  strategy from  the state and the leaders of the private sector to find alternate arrangements to use them as innovators as in Israel. Digital Market places are thriving in west has a foothold in Sri Lanka and the potential is very interestingly limited changes of lifestyles due to innovative changes making life easier. However these changes include the risk of health other unexpected and undesirable changes in the economy. Will Sri Lanka be effected by the ripple effect or to what extent it will invade Sri Lanka is a matter of time Digitalization developments depend on the vision considering the mobile and internet user are young. Experts predict  saturated digital market in Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka  in 10 year with innovative smart cities in line with Israel Hong Kong and UAE When  40% of the global population is online with 750 million global internet users Sri Lanka will be finding it difficult  to join the world out of necessity ad compulsion. Chinese multinational company Alabama started by the owner an English Teacher Hangzhou is the biggest retailer with 100 British Brands and with 440 million active clients which is also protected by the UK government  could be considered  as a guide lines for our digital mister Introduction of the Mycroft 365 with cloud business transformation by commercial banks  are in the It is good to be Careful anyway It is time to encourage and promote our young entrepreneurs in in with the vision in the Israel youth on innovation taking them up to the world standards on creative innovative Dhammika Perera supposed to be the richest man in Sri Lanka who bought Singer recently said at the recent  presentation in Colombo he has increased   business of singer by 38% after taking over and introducing online observed that  online trend was settling to a mixture of online and storage stores worldwide  again indicating the uncertainty of world business trends  at successive speed.

Challenges and Way Forward

Digitalization, Modernization, Trade and Consumerism is interconnected and interwoven with each other in the present context connected and depending on each other. Trade and consumerism is a part and parcel of the life and digitalization and modernization are complementary. World is ever changing with challenges they are faced with especially on ‘’Covid19’’ pandemic when village bravely faced by using what’s app to make payments,  children climbed water tanks for WIFI and teachers were guided and trained by children for distant teaching on line are proof that Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans are adoptable to any challenges. Invasion of international digital platforms to Sri Lanka is inevitable and be ready to accept and meet challenges without changing ourselves culturally and age old traditions and habits we are lived with. Consumerism is not an alien concept to us when we had the Badulla ‘’TAM’’ in 1857 AD, with instructions to the consumer and trader along with other 4000 ‘’TAMS’’ found on excavations, to show our past glory and education on the subject. Therefore it is time for us to give and interpret the correct meaning on consumerism to have the balancing livelihood of consumer, trader, regulator and the industrialist. We hope and expect the citizen be happy contended and extend peace goodwill and loving kindness to the world over. Sarath7@hotmail.co.uk

One Response to “‘’DIGITALIZATION AND MODERNIZING TRADE BUSIENSS AND CONSUMERISM FOR THE CITIZEN’’”

  1. Nimal Says:

    As a pioneer in this field of digital transmission, the protocol that governs the universal spread od data, have my concerns resulting in me not using the latest mobile but a basic one. Careful about doing too much with the desktop as it is opened to exposure of ones dealings and life which is frightening. I am beginning to think if the covid variations are deliberate attempt to control our lives and the gainers are the online sellers at the expense of the high street shops, at the expense of millions of people losing jobs,etc. After all we had covid from the bats for generations, which I myself got while chasing the bats to the air when a war film was filmed in the jungle in Kandy. We all came out of it but the variants seem to be a deliberate attempt for more than one reason. I hope the mature democracies will see through it and get a grip and punish those who are responsible. We know all about viruses where aids were from the green monkey in West Africa.
    When some leaders in some countries who keep ignoring the severity of this pandemic is questionable.

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