Traders overlook consumer rights

Kathmandu: The Consumer Protection Act requires shopkeepers and grocers to display the price list of products sold by them. In practice, however, not many of them are known to abide by the rule.

In the case of products which are measured in weight or volume, the price for a relevant unit must be displayed. Section: 12 of the Consumer Protection Act-1998 clearly state that traders must display the price list of consumer goods sold or supplied by him/her in a conspicuous place, explicitly mentioning its wholesale and retail price.

The law guarantees consumers the right to be informed of the prices. Any trader who violates the Act or the rules framed under the Act can be sentenced to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years and/or fined up to Rs 100,000.

Kamal Bahadur Thapa, section officer and media spokesperson at the Department of Commerce, said understaffing was a major hurdle in effectively implementing the law. "The process to take action against the offenders is cumbersome. It could take up to five years before the guilty is finally punished," he reasoned, adding that the government should make a provision for on-the-spot punishment to discourage unfair trade practices.

However, the government has turned deaf ear to calls to effectively implement the law to bring the offenders to book and ensure consumer interest.

Though the Consumer Protection Regulation 2000 has the provision of setting up a separate office in every district for the purpose, the government has delegated the power to the Cottage and Small Industry, the District Administration Office and the Department of Measurement.

In Kathmandu, the government has delegated its powers to an official at Bureau of Standard and Measurement to monitor unfair trade practices.

"How can one expect an official to allot his time to inspect such a vast market while also performing his regular work at the bureau?" questioned Shrestha.