Posted on January 1st, 2023

Sarath Wijesinghe President’s Counsel /former Ambassador to UAE and Israel

Cost of Living

A proper consumer regime is a prerequisite for a smooth and successful management of economy which is directly interconnected to consumerism which controls and pushes the economy of a country. Consumer regime is the proper balance of the consumer trader and the governance that has a direct relevant on the economy.  Consumer regime is governed by the legislature, government policy and competition on a democratic capitalist social mixed with socialism. In the circumstances the cost of living cannot be controlled as in a socialist structure where the price of the goods and services increase in a steady pattern.  In socialist bloc the price of consumer goods do not rise as fast as in a capitalist regime due to economic factors as the economy of a socialist controlled and planned based on the government policy currently in Sri Lanka the cost of living is rising in an unprecedented rate due to inflation, mismanagement, and internal and external economic factors the governance has no control over. Structure is Current hot topic nationwide is the cost of living and price of consumer items and services. Cost of living is not a static scenario due to changes in trade production and the change of social structure on various factors and angles. Finger of the citizen always points -quite correctly- at the governance empowered to manage affairs of the citizen in the capacity of a trustee of the Nation for a given number of years. Who is responsible for the prices of consumer items and what the remedial measures to provide the citizen (the consumer) with products and services of quality at an affordable price? In any society beating cost of living depends on the conduct and strategies of the consumer and how sharp he is in planning when to buy, where to buy how to buy and what to buy the consumer items in the market challenging the trader and producer assisted and supervised by the state (CAA in SL). Sri Lanka lacks organized consumer organizations, sharp consumers and just traders for a good consumer/trade regime. Consumerism and trade is interconnected and the reader is invited to read the reading materials given below. Undoubtedly the regulator/s play a major part in Sri Lanka led by the main regulator Consumer Affairs Authority. Is the CAA( Consumer Affairs Authority) is living up to the expectations of the intentions and aspirations of the citizen is a question the consumer is in a position to answer. But it is a sorry state of affairs that the CAA as well as the citizen is in a helpless situation when the exploration of the trader, industrialist added to the misery the inefficiency of CAA with no teeth and proper management and leadership leading to unfortunate state of affairs.


CONSUMER (S75 CAA act 9 of 2003) is any actual or potential user of any goods or services made available for a consideration by any trader or manufacture with the promotion that every citizen is a consumer an important member of the society. Note that any potential consumer and services come within the ambit of the definition which includes professionals and all kinds of services. Consumer is protected and looked after by the legislation (in Sri Lanka act no 9 of 2003 and many legislations and regulations) to some extent when the consumer worldwide is organized and protected due to power of organization and consumer education. ‘’John Kennady’’ in (1963) who initiated the world consumer day and consumer organization in USA that consumer then is the least protected in the society needing assistance of the governance which is fast changing for good today except in Sri Lanka. In many parts of the world the consumer is named an uncrowned King mighty powerful to bring the governments and the trader to knees by the organizational power. In Sri Lanka is consumer the king? Or powerful is a moot issue to be discussed. Consumer day is celebrated annually worldwide on various themes on current topics such as on 15th of March every year to promote consumerism and good practices on trade and commerce for the development and prosperity of the respective nations and consumers worldwide. CAA is scheduled to take part in the international event on 15th march 2020 with the international community. International activism should trickle down to the world citizen in protecting consumer and maintaining equilibrium in trade. Consumer is defined in many ways in different jurisdictions in the same theme except in Sri Lanka even a potential consumer comes within the ambit of the definition consumer. Every citizens a consumer as everybody is required to purchase goods and obtain the services of services. Section8 (f) of CAA says it is the duty of the CAA to promote, assist, and encourage the establishment of consumer organizations Sri Lankan consumer organizations are in the lowest ebb compared to even India the immediate neighbor more advanced that Sri Lanka in many respects. India has consumer courts and the judiciary and media is helpful to the consumer unlike in Sri Lanka- a sorry state.

Law and Practice

Consumer regime prior to the CAA act was governed by English Law (act no 1/79 consumer Protection, 1/87 Fair Trading Act, consumer Prices act -chapter 173- which was replaced by CAA act which is a combination of Australian, Canadian, and English Law with complete transformation from price control concept to regulatory powers for the performance of the current consumer regime. Whether the CAA act is effective or living up to the needs and expectation is a matter left to the citizen to decide. It appears that the consumer is not satisfied and the Consumer Affairs Authority is not providing cover and protection to the consumer, industrialist, and the trader based the regulatory powers with powers to impose decisions towards a proper consumerism structure to the citizen. CAA is empowered to impose restrictions, implement regulations and directions, in addition to civil law remedies available in the court structure. CAA act needs complete overhaul and changes on policy and implementation which is in the final stages of fine tuning   at the CAA. Is CAA making use of the powers vested properly for the implementation of the regulatory power? Change o legislation is inevitable and a necessity today. It may be Sri Lanka would have been better off under English Legal system which is replaced by CAA as the consumer regime in UK is excellent with the intervention of the department of trade an d industry.

Consumer Protection / Consumer Education

Consumer should be protected and while trade is regularized for the development of the economy. Some objects ( S7 ) of the CAA is to protect consume against marketing of goods and services hazarders to life and property, protect against unfair practices, ensure adequate access, seek redress from unfair trade practices by Regulation of Trade ( Part 2  of the act) connected regulations and practices. As price control is the history some consumer items which the Minister believes essential to the society could be could be identified to impose the maximum price (S18) as has been implemented in Rice, Gas and their identified items. It is a requirement to display the price list (S26) in the absence of the prize control regime, with implied warranties and maintain the quality and standards with the condition that a receipt to issue (S28) all the consumer items and services provided. Consumer protection is strengthened by organization as in other parts of the world with international networks such as Consumer International (USA) and famous WHICH” magazine based in UK acting as giants on protecting  consumer and assist the state in regularizing trade. CAA in SL requires to promote assist and encourage establishment of consumer organizations and how for this is implemented is in question. It is the duty of the NGO’s, Schools, and citizens in general to set up consumer organizations in all levels, and also duty of the governance to promote consumer education schools, Universities and for the public in general. Consumer education is to be promoted in all levels including in schools and Universities in addition to scientific public awareness programs.

Rice Gas and regulated items under S18 to be essential to the life of the citizen/Hoarding is an Offence

Determination of rice prices is complicated due to the complexity of the process connected to the paddy farmer, intermediate trader and small and large scale rice millers, State (CAA), and the consumer whose stable diet is mainly rice. Paddy famer spends a substantial part of the year with challenges and risks with no proper security for storage, insurance and sale of the products readily purchased /collected by the paddy trader receiving the major part of the profits when the monopoly and decisions of the products is in the hands of the trader, and the state as the regulator with substantial powers to maintain equilibrium in fair trade. Good practices previously with Paddy Board with enormous storage facilities, CWE with large network of storage, outlets were willfully destroyed by the errant politicians and fat cat selfish traders still haunting to get the maximum from the farmer sandwiched between trader, state, consumer and regulator. Until the CAA act is amended and a proper consumer regime is set up we must find ways and means to give relief to the consumer whilst maintaining equilibrium with the trader and regulator.  It is in news that errant and few traders have stored the major portion of the paddy aiming at large prefects creating artificial shortages and price increases. Hording goods by and trader is an offence (S17) and the storage capacity can be determined by the regulator. It is also the mandate and duty of the consumer organizations to come forward to safeguard and protect the citizen backed by the media in maintaining the price quality and standards. Now there is news of hording large stocks by errant traders/mill owners and it is time to implement law to the last word. Before the introduction of CAA the price control mechanism was in force and the situation has been more consumer friendly in deed.

Collective Efforts is required with a scientific and long term strategy for a proper consumer regime based on consumer education and consumer organization- WAY FORWARD

Consumer and the famer is helpless in the hands of the errant trader and the wrong system inherited which needs complete overhaul with a new vision with the involvement and intervention of the Departments of Agriculture, Trade, Regulators, Trader/Chambers/Consumer and Trade Organizations, cooperatives, Banks, with a genuine political vision and a leadership in which the Ministry of Finance, Trade, Consumer affairs to play a main part. News items of some traders taking consumer to hostage to be punished and dealt with no sympathy. The plan to be drafted at the drawing board level initially by changing the concept and the ineffective and powerless  CAA act and consensus to be agreed upon with the regulator trader and the consumer with short/long term genuine affords aiming at making drastic changes at the level of the legislature in formulating and implementing short/long revolutionary plans for a proper consumer regime and successful internal and external trade in line with the policy and the future prosperity of the nation. Consumer Education to be given priority instead of punishing the trader and leaving the consumer in the dark which is lacking in Sri Lanka and the regulators should be geared for collective actions with the help of local authorities and government departments strategized by the CAA and the Trade Ministry- Lack of involvements by the Chambers of Commerce and trade organizations are noted and everybody should take the issue forward as a national movement for the good of the citizen at large. On the whole it is the CAA that is responsible to lead the campaign with the resources and the battery of experts to assist the wish and will of the citizen awaiting a developed prosperous society with a developed consumer and a trade regime. It is time to rethink whether to reintroduce the old system of price control fair trading etc. which is functioning well in UK with the involvement of DTI-Department trade and Industry with the powerful and organized consumer movement. A though study and new approach is essential with change of the legal system and outdated legislation.

(Reference material – all by the author authored two books on consumerism – Junk Food Daily News- Island / Wise consumer Daily Mirror 19/12 – 2018 / Alert consumer 6/1/2008 Daily news -Protecting Consumer Sunday Observer 15/3/2018 /Target self-sufficiency in milk  Daily News -3/Aug/2007 /Rice eating culture 14/Aug/2007-/6/1/2008-CAA ACT/ Rice price and cost of living 20/4/2008 /Simple life 6/July 2008/ 27/May 2007-Regulatory powers-observer gas prices 22/July 2007-14/Sept/2006 towards an International Consumer  Charter-rice based products 4/1/2007 Daily News all could be retrieved from the internet and in the book on consumerism authored by me 0094777880166)

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