CONSUMER RIGHTS IN BANGLADESH: A CRITICAL STUDY

 

 

CHAPTER THREE

PRESENT CONDITION OF CONSUMER RIGHTS IN BANGLADESH

3.1 Introduction

The current system of legal protection to the consumers in Bangladesh is inadequate and outdated. Further whatever little laws are available; they are not strictly enforced for the protection of the rights of the general consumers. The consumers in Bangladesh are thus deprived of their rights at every sphere of their lives.

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. Ahmed and Rahman comments that the current regime of legislative protection to the consumers in Bangladesh is ‘so outdated that little or no protection is provided to the consumers’[1] they further criticize the current legal regime for consumer protection on the following grounds:

(a) The current laws are faulty and do not meet the present needs;

(b) 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.

(c) The provisions of penalty or punishment under the current laws are so negligible that nobody cares to abide by such laws; and

(d) Finally, the laws are not effectively enforced.[2]

Turin Afroz[3] too claims that, under the current legal regime, the general consumers in Bangladesh cannot take proper legal action against the fraudulent and unfair trade practices of the unscrupulous businessmen and traders [Tureen Afroz, ‘Protecting the Rights of the Consumers in Bangladesh’ (17 March 2002) The Daily Star]. She further states that the current statutory protections to the consumers in Bangladesh are not comprehensive and thus, fail to meet the contemporary requirements of the consumers.

3.2 Formulation of Consumer Law

In 2004, a draft law on protection of consumer rights was approved in the Cabinet of the Government of Bangladesh. The Consumer Rights Protection Act was passed by Parliament in April 2009. The Act establishes the Consumer Rights Protection Council (the Council) as the body charged with lead carriage of the Act. This law emphasizes the consumers’ right to obtain goods and services at competitive prices. It also highlights consumers’ right to information regarding quality, quantity, standard and value of the goods and s mutational structure is a hindrance to the promotion of consumer protection in Bangladesh.  [4]

The ability of consumers to verify the product information given to them is extremely limited and, in most cases, impossible to achieve. Therefore, in the absence of an effective market mechanism, the protection of consumer interests will necessitate more than the enactment of laws. Needed are mechanisms which enable and encourage consumers to act in their own interests where they can, and to provide effective and timely intervention on their behalf when they cannot.

In Bangladesh, in common with many other developing countries, governments play a critical role in the economy not only as regulators and protectors of the public interest, but also as owners of major assets and business enterprises. Sectors such as railways, telephones, and other public utility services, have established anti-competitive structures which may inhibit the modernization of these services and hinder private investment into these sectors. Whilst, in recent times, the private sector has entered into the business of cellular/mobile telephones, competition has been restricted to only a few firms. This structure severely limits the ability of consumer choice to shake markets or discipline monopoly providers.

3.3 Conclusion

Despite certain reforms in the domestic economy such as sectorial regulators, Bangladesh still possesses a rather weak competition regime. This impedes the efficiency gains in the domestic economy. Moreover, a weak competition regime implies that the interest of the consumers may be partially overlooked. Setting up an effective regime, in this regard, will remain a challenging task for Bangladesh, as it would require, amongst other things, legal and regulatory reforms, implementation of rule of law and development of civil society group protecting the consumers’ interest.

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[1] [Borhan Ahmed and Khalilur Rahman, ‘Consumer Rights: Bangladesh Perspective’ CAB publication].

[2] The Daily Star (Dhaka). 13 August 2005

[3] Tureen Afroz:  Protecting The Right of The Consumers in Bangladesh (17March 2002) P.364

[4] Haripada Bhattacharjee and Samir Kumar Sheel, Consumers In Bangladesh: Rights and Seatbacks

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