The Consumer Rights Protection Law-2019 is an important law for the consumers of our country. The numbers of consumers are the same as the total population of Bangladesh calculating sixteen crores twenty three lakhs. Not only that those children who are still in mothers’ womb are also included as consumers. At present, the total numbers of pregnant women are thirty-five lakhs and, thus, if this number is added to the total number of population, the new numbers of consumers are sixteen crores and fifty-eight lakhs. Those who sell only one product are also consumers because they not only sell a product but also buy one or more products. So, all the people of Bangladesh have a good connection to consumer rights. In this case, it is very important for us to be aware about the consumer rights and applying consumer rights law.
The income of the most of the people of Bangladesh is limited. They have to go through a very calculative life. It is very unfortunate that they are frequently being cheated while buying quality products with their little income. Cheating is a serious problem in buying quality products from markets which hamper normal mode of life. On the other hand, if the supply of production decreases in the market, the price of these products increases. Moreover, many products have to be imported from different foreign countries and due to some difficulties in processing those imported products in the immigration, the supply is decreasing in the market and the shortage of products is increasing. Besides these issues, due to greediness of some black marketers, hoarders, and profiteers, the price of products goes up to a frightening level that throws the consumer rights in risk.
Among the basic human rights, food is the most important and sensitive issue. But this right has been violated in many ways. Nowadays, the rate of food adulteration has become so acute that consumers are not able to keep their trust on handmade or raw foods. Even, this tendency of food adulteration has spread all over the world especially in the developing countries. According to a research conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO), one of the main reasons of cancer is adulterated foods. So, the right of safe and secured foods has become a burning issue in this world.
To eradicate the above problem, the Consumer Rights Protection Law-2009 was passed in the National Parliament on 6th April, 2009. Among the objectives of passing this law, the most important issues are ensuring safe and secured products, resisting fraudulence in buying products and protecting consumer rights and responsibilities. In this regard, the consumers should take the responsibility about their rights. If consumers have a minimum knowledge about the consumer rights protection law, they can protect themselves from this fraudulence or they can take steps to give them punishment through proper authority.
If consumers are cheated in buying products, they should lodge written complaint to the director general or head of divisional office or district office. It is better to attach a copy of the receipt with the letter. The victim must mention his full name, name of his father and mother, phone, fax, e-mail, and profession in this letter. If this complaint is acceptable, the consumers will get justice within two to three weeks.
Consumers can get justice in three ways such as Administrative Justice, Criminal Court Justice, and Civil Court Justice. Director General or authorized officer of the Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection can punish any organisation by imposing only penalty under administrative justice instead of imposing criminal case. In criminal court justice, offences against the consumer rights can be administered by the first class judicial magistrate or the metropolitan magistrate. They can punish the offenders with jail term or can seize their properties as punishment. In civil court justice, the victim can be paid up to minimum five times penalty by the offender.
It is a matter of pleasure that the Bangladeshi consumers are becoming aware of the consumer rights protection law day by day. This law becomes clear to the consumers and they can complain against the offenders and, so, the rate of complaint is increasing. However, to make the consumers aware about the law, meetings, discussions, seminars, symposia and talk shows are being arranged from 2015 by the participation of students, teachers, businessman, buyers, sellers and intellectuals. Through these programmes, the awareness is increasing among the consumers day by day.
The Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection is a new organization of nine years. As a result of the directive of the honourable Prime Minister of Bangladesh and because of the leadership of Ministry of Commerce, the Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection is getting strong. So, the national consumer rights activities are also getting strong. To strengthen the activities, different field-level promotional steps are being taken to increase awareness among the consumers. But it is still a challenge for the Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection to reach the law to the doorstep of the people. Along with the government, all the consumers should come forward to face the challenge. All consumers should be aware about their own rights. Above all, when the consumers become familiar with the law, the consumer rights will be ensured.
The writer is Pro Vice-Chancellor, Uttara University