| No agency to defend consumers |
The National Assembly passed a consumers' rights protection law in 2010. The law took effect on July 1, 2011.
However, a year after its implementation, disputes between businesses and consumers and fraudulent trade practices remain rampant. Poor management and insufficiently stringent fines have been blamed for the poor results.
Do you agree that there has been little improvement in consumer protection since the implementation of the new law?
The Prime Minister issued a list of essential goods and services must include consumer protection in their contracts, including household electricity supply, domestic water supply, cable television, fixed telephone line provision, mobile phone contracts, internet services, flights and railway tickets and provisions in serviced apartments.
These contracts need the approval of the local Department of Industry and Trade or the Vietnam Competition Authority.
The Decree come into effect from the January, 3 2012, and within 90 days thereafter, individuals and organisations must register the contracts and general trading conditions as prescribed. However many enterprises have ignored the rules.
There are numerous key services, why are only nine are listed?
We want to include more to protect consumers while on the other hand, enterprises wanted to minimise the list. So the final decision belonged to the Prime Minister.
I'm not entirely pleased with the list, but it's a good start.
What’s your view about the fact that we’re still flooded by shoddy goods and fraudulent businesses a year after the law has been enacted?
The law have been in effect for a year but the actual guidelines for its implementation were issued much later, causing problems in dealing with violations. For example, the decree providing details and guiding the implementation were issued five and a half months later, the decree on administrative sanctions was issued 10 months later.
Who is responsible to the consumers?
The Vietnam Competition Authority, and the local departments of Industry and Trade.
However the law only stated in general that the government agencies will be responsible to the consumers which include other departments such as the law-makers or inspectors. There is clearly an avoidance of responsibility.
The media is calling people to be smarter consumers, but consumers still need the government's protection. What's your opinion on this?
We need to be smart in everything we do to live in this world. However, normal people wouldn't know if powdered milk they’ve bought is genuine or just full of fake ingredients.
The agencies could ask people to be careful, to be a little more choosy. The agencies are unfairly pushing the responsibility onto consumers.
After a year, do you think the law on the protection of consumers' rights needs any amendments?
The law have many rules for making and inspecting contracts. But in real life, we have many services that don't require a contract, so maybe that could be looked at.