Consumer activists urge passing of bill

BANGKOK POST  Issued date 24 March 2014

APINYA WIPATAYOTIN
Draft stuck in lower House since last year
The Foundation for Consumers and its alliance hope that reform efforts will speed up the passing of a consumer protection bill for the establishment of an independent consumer protection body.
The bill drafted by civic groups earned the approval of the upper House last year. The bill was later forwarded back to the lower House for final consideration and was stuck there due to the dissolution of parliament on Dec 9 last year.
The bill calls for the establishment of an independent body to protect consumers’ rights in different areas, such as public services, housing, health services, finance and banking, and medicine and health products.
Speaking during yesterday’s seminar entitled “Reform on Consumers’ Protection” organised by the Reform Now Network, Jiraporn Limpananont, chairwoman of the committee on consumer protection, said consumer activists are still waiting for the bill that was first introduced under Section 61 of the now-defunct 1997 constitution 16 years ago.
Ms Jiraporn said activists believe the current opportunities to reform the country will help raise people’s awareness of their consumer rights.
“We do need to push harder until the bill is passed into law by the next government. Whoever makes up the next government must vote to support the bill as it is not a good idea to vote against any law that serves the people,” she said.
Saree Aongsomwang, secretary-general of the foundation, said state-owned agencies do not have sufficient capacity to protect consumers rights, which they need to be able to do.
Ms Saree said the government cannot currently take urgent action to deal with consumer-related problems or complaints.
She cited the case of the asbestos ban as an example. She said in 2011, the cabinet banned the use of asbestos due to strong concerns about its impact on people’s health.
Until now, however, no progress has been made on the issue. Worse, the Public Health Ministry has asked the cabinet to withdraw its resolution, which has disappointed the public, she said.
She said access to information is key to creating consumer power. Consumers then gain the right to ban any product or service that violates their rights.
“If a law to protect consumers’ rights is passed, we will have a chance to use more constructive methods to deal with problems,” she said.
Currently, owners of products like to counter sue consumers who report faulty products, she added. Passing the law will help protect their rights.
According to the foundation, last year there were 3,514 consumer complaints. The highest number of complaints were related to healthcare (1,263), followed by telecommunications (749) and banking (391).

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