Of all the rights, consumer rights happen to be one of the most ignored by the public in Nepal. But this is mainly due to the lack of awareness about the fact that there exist rights that protect the interests of consumers. In Nepal, there is the Consumer Rights Protection Act 2055 and the Consumer Rights Protection Regulation 2056, both enacted to ensure that consumers get a fair deal on all kinds of consumer items. Yet in some areas there is confusion about the work distribution among various departments and their authority concerning consumer rights, and this has diffused the focus of the agencies entrusted with the power to look into consumer rights violations and designing redressal measures. The home ministry, the department of commerce and a consumer welfare council have individual authority to look into similar matters. That has resulted in fence-sitting, each department expecting the other to exercise its authority, even as those rights get infringed.

Lack of awareness also happens to be the biggest hurdle in advocating consumer rights. The average Nepali citizen has no inkling as to what such rights are and why they need to stake a claim upon them. Roughly, it is the share of the due one is entitled to receive from a business deal in return for a price. Hence, it is legitimate to expect to get unadulterated food items after paying for them, or for that matter, unleaded petrol. And the list covers almost all kinds of goods and services. As experienced by the consumers at home, the actual scenario is bleak. The government agencies have not done enough to implement the policies and other regulations enacted only for the purpose. For example, adulterated medicines and other items continue to find a market. Over 10 per cent of the edible goods in town were found to be either of poor quality or failing to meet one or the other criteria set by the department of food technology and quality control. That is but only one aspect of the consumer rights.

Although the government is now focusing on the food front, it is high time the drive was extended to cover all other aspects of the consumer rights. In today’s open market economy, it is a priority to ensure them. The industrialised world covers even modern concepts like electronic commerce and similar other technical fields. Nepal too will have to wake up to such breadth of goods and services. But leaping to address distant services while ignoring common aspects will do little good. It is time guidelines on consumer rights protection are made public. For example, there is need to disclose price lists of commodities, curb unfair trade practices, incorporate consumer representation and maintain goods and service standards.