Aug 17, 2011

Consumer protection law expected soon

Disgruntled shoppers might soon have a means to hit back at dodgy businesses following a meeting on the proposed drafting of a consumer protection law on July 28.

The meeting took place at the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry headquarters on Min Ye Kyaw Swar Road in Yangon, said one exporter who attended the meeting.

He said he was unsure when the proposed law would be drafted.

“The government, legislators and a variety of representatives of trade associations will make this law. During the meeting we discussed how it could be implemented and what value it would have for the public and the business community,” he said.

He added that since similar laws are already in place in countries such as Singapore, Myanmar could easily imitate that legislation.

The next sitting of the Pyithu Hluttaw begins on August 22 and representatives will have the opportunity to question government departments on issues that affect their constituents. Representatives will also be able to suggest new legislation, including laws to protect consumers.

U Than Mg, a consultant with international law firm Kelvin China Yangon Company in Yangon, said during a trademark and counterfeit goods seminar in April that legislation should cover the import of fake products, substandard quality food, drugs and cosmetics.

He said that some goods sold in Myanmar are export-only items that cannot even be sold in the country where they are made.

“Some Western companies make new drugs and sell them to developing countries like Myanmar, to test them – they treat us like guinea pigs,” U Than Mg said.

He added that Myanmar needed to establish laws to protect consumers, standardise products, maintain fair competition and protect trade secrets.

“When Myanmar businesspeople want to sell their products to other countries, it is like a mosquito trying to squeeze through screen door. But when a foreigner wants to distribute or sell goods here, it’s like a mosquito trying to find its way into a shack alongside the road,” said one foodstuffs distributor.

U Khin Soe, the owner of Ayeyarwady groundnut oils at the Bayintnaung Wholesale Commodity Exchange Centre in Yangon, said a consumer protection law was needed to protect consumers and used the example of groundnut oil to explain why.

“About the cheapest a trader can afford to sell groundnut oil is K4000 a viss [1.6 kilograms or 3.6 pounds] but some traders are selling it for K2800 or K3000, which means they are mixing it palm oil, which is much cheaper. But a consumer should be told what ratio the mix is when they’re buying oil,” he said.

Ko Ko, a 21-year-old technology student, said many consumers knowingly buy fake electronics.

“Sometimes we’re not in a position to buy a genuine product and buy a cheaper item, even though we know it’s fake,” he said, adding that genuine products often cost 10 times the price of a fake.

But Ko Tat Toe, a 28-year-old who attended U Than Mg’s seminar, said he did not really understand the logic behind faking products.

“I don’t understand why a producer would closely imitate another brand,” he said.

He used the example of Shwe War soap, a famous brand in Myanmar, that has been closely aped by brands named Shwe Sar or Shwe Par.

A female journalist who declined to be named said the country desperately needed a law to better protect consumers.

“The Food and Drug Administration [FDA] sometimes releases lists of banned products in state-owned newspapers that have recently targeted traditional medicines and pickled tealeaf. But I feel there are still lots of dangerous products on supermarket shelves,” she said.

“I’ve heard that when some importers take their sample products to the FDA they take genuine items but when they actually begin selling them they use fake goods.”

Source: Myanmar Times

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