Was govt’s special market monitoring only for show?

  • Of the 509 businesses found to be flouting rules, DoSMCP seeks supply ministry’s go-ahead to file lawsuits against seven

Kathmandu, September 14

The government is preparing to file lawsuits against seven firms caught red-handed cheating consumers during the ‘Special Market Monitoring’ held between August 15 and September 2. The number of companies that were found to be flouting various rules and engaging in malpractices during that period stands at 509.

Department of Supply Management and Consumer Protection (DoSMCP) — the government’s authorised market monitoring body — has said that it is preparing to file lawsuits against seven firms, mainly major supermarkets for violating consumer laws.

The DoSMCP has forwarded the file to the Ministry of Supply seeking permission to file the lawsuits against seven firms, according to Laxman Shrestha, director of DoSMCP. Upon receiving a go-ahead from the ministry, the department will file the lawsuits after taking advice from a government attorney.

Minister for Supply Deepak Bohara had launched the special market monitoring campaign after assuming office. During the campaign, a total of 509 business firms were accused of violating consumer laws. Many of them have already received amnesty, while some are having to regularly report to the department to provide an update on the changes they have made.

Out of the 509 cases, the DoSMCP and local administration are looking into only 109 cases and the remaining have been forwarded to the concerned departments and most of them have been settled.

“The concerned departments of particular products and services are authorised to settle the cases pertaining to them,” said Shrestha.

The special market monitoring led by the DoSMCP was a joint market monitoring campaign that comprised officials from every concerned department, like Department of Transport (DoT), Department of Drugs (DoD) and Department of Food Technology and Quality Control (DFTQC), among others.

The DoSMCP has sent 43 cases related to adulteration and tampering with weighing machines to Nepal Bureau of Standards and Metrology, 12 to Department of Agriculture Services, 28 related to sales of unhygienic meat to Department of Livestock Services and one case concerning tax to Inland Revenue Department.

During the monitoring, 195 operators of public vehicles faced action on the field for charging exorbitant fares from consumers and the excess fare was returned to the passengers.

Likewise, 36 cases related to pharmaceutical products were forwarded to DoD, 21 cases concerned with the health sector to Department of Health Services and 64 cases to DFTQC. These departments are authorised to settle the cases that are related to them.

Despite a large number of cases being related to public well-being and of sensitive nature like sale of non-hygienic, unlabelled food items and unauthorised drugs, what is worrying is that a large number of companies that had been reprimanded have been let off easily — either with minimal penalty or worse, just a stern warning.

“Earlier too, the DoSMCP and then Department of Commerce and Supply Management used to provide amnesty to firms without taking any serious action, which only resulted in unethical practices flourishing in the market,” said Prem Lal Maharjan, president of National Consumer Forum.

Stating such malpractices cannot be curtailed with government’s ‘seasonal monitoring’, he also opined that consumers themselves need to be more aware of the prevalent situation.

“Though there have been actions initiated on the field like destroying date-expired, unlabelled and unhygienic products, the government’s market monitoring still leaves much to be desired.”