Consumer protection empowers the consumer, which in turn will make buyers more confident, thereby helping build a stronger economy, boost competition and spur growth
An age-old business mantra goes thus: The consumer is king. This is a constant refrain from suppliers, sellers and retailers. But how often are consumers really valued in Nepal? As a matter of fact, consumers in Nepal on most of the occasions are at the receiving end. Despite clamour from some activists, consumers in Nepal have barely enjoyed the legal protection they deserve due to various reasons which range from poverty to high unemployment rate to illiteracy to lack of awareness. The reason why consumer protection is essential is the consumer constitutes the starting point of economic activities. Consumer rights in general mean protection from faulty goods and services, right to be informed, right to choose and right to call the shots among others. Consumer protection also ensures that consumers’ complaints are heard and there is an assurance from the government that their grievances are addressed.
Consumer right was recognised as an issue in Nepal only after the restoration of democracy in 1990. Though there were some legal provisions in the country’s Civil Code earlier, there were no specific laws for the protection of consumer rights. Consumer right got legal recognition only after Consumer Protection Act 1998 was introduced. Regulations came into force a year later. These were some major steps in terms of protecting consumer rights. Nonetheless, consumer right has so far remained one of the most ignored issues. Hardly can we recall any incident of a consumer’s complaint getting legal redress. The constitution also has guaranteed consumer right. Article 44 (1) says: Every consumer shall have the right to obtain quality goods and services. Similarly, Article 44 (2) states: A person who has suffered injury from substandard goods or services shall have the right to obtain compensation in accordance with law. In line with these provisions, the government move towards ensuring legal rights for consumers to seek compensation against any anti-consumer activity is welcome news.
The Bill to Protect Rights of Consumers, which has been passed by the Cabinet and awaits endorsement from Parliament, states that consumers can file cases at the court claiming compensation against any negative impact on the consumer’s life due to anti-consumer activities. Once new law is enacted for consumer protection, it will mean a consumer can claim compensation if s/he is affected by poor quality of goods or services. But for that, the government must expedite the process to establish consumer courts across the country. Though it was envisioned long ago, consumer courts are yet to be formed due to frequent government changes, political instability and lack of political will. In the meantime, we must not forget that laws only cannot protect consumers; awareness will be the key. While the new provisions to protect consumers are important steps, it is also incumbent upon the government to educate consumers about their rights. Consumer protection empowers the consumers, which in turn will make buyers more confident, thereby helping build a stronger economy, boost competition and spur growth. Upholding the consumer right also means consolidating the rights of the citizens.
Tap the potentials
At a time when most of the local levels are struggling to raise taxes beyond the capacity of the local people, the Chandannath Municipality in Jumla has decided to convene an “investment summit” to unleash explored opportunities in the mountainous district. Chandannath Municipality Mayor Kantika Sijuwal has invited all, especially the businessmen, to take part in the summit scheduled for September 14.
Her decision to convene the local level summit is a welcome move. It will help explore a bundle of opportunities in the district, which is famous for delicious apple, horticulture, high-value herbs and organic agro-products such as Marsi rice, which drew tremendous public attention after Prime Minister KP Oli and NCP Co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal were shown having it in social media a few months ago. Sijuwal also promised offering tax cuts for some years for those businessmen who invest in her municipality. There is a huge potential of commercial farming of apple and high-value herbs in the district. The district can meet the country’s total demand of such products if the federal, provincial and local governments come together to harness them at the fullest.
A version of this article appears in print on August 29, 2018 of The Himalayan Times.