Consumer societies inactive

Sunday Observer, March 25, 2012
The Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Sri Lanka (FCCISL)and the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) celebrated World Consumer Day by jointly organising a forum at the IPS auditorium recently.

World Consumer Day was declared on March 15, 1963, with the address given by President John F Kennedy to the US Congress raising global awareness about consumer rights. The theme of this year’s World Consumer Day was “our Money, our rights”. Consumer International has chosen this theme in view of the adverse impact that has befallen consumers in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crises due to the subprime debt issue and the current financial crises stemming from western financial institutions due to the sovereign debt issue. This year’s theme is applicable to the local situation due to the unpleasant experience consumers had in 2008.

The keynote address was delivered by ambassador Sarath Wijesinghe who was former chairman of the Consumer Affairs Authority of Sri Lanka.

He drew the attention of a variety of regulatory organisations such as Public Utilities Commission (Electricity), Telecommunication Regulatory Authority, Financial ombudsman, Insurance ombudsman, and Legislative enactments such as trade mark ordinance, IP Act, Drugs Ordinance, Food and Drugs Act, Cosmetic Devise Act, the Sri Lanka Standard Act and the Consumer Affairs Authority operating in the country to safeguard and protect the interest of consumers. Unfortunately, consumer activism and organisations responsible to protect consumers in Sri Lanka do not demonstrate the required level of enthusiasm to protect, promote and safeguard consumer interest in respect of goods and services available in the country.

According to the IPS research study conducted with the Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS), around $ two billion savings can be made benefiting the consumer, in consumer spending if trade between south Asian countries is conducted through meaningful regional trading arrangements.

The forum also noted that consumer societies in Sri Lanka were not active as desired due to a variety of reasons. One reason is that, though the establishment and forming of a society is relatively an easy task, the sustainability of such societies is the main problem. The Sri Lankan consumer does not receive immediate material benefit in joining such societies. It has been found that regulatory authorities should be more responsible in providing redress to the consumer voice which would then certainly enhance the credibility of the regulatory authority.

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