Increased consumer rights could be beneficial to the economy
Last week, Viet Nam News asked its readers about what the authorities should do to ensure wholesalers and retailers offer compensation and better protection to consumers who buy poor products and services.
During a recent review of the Tourism Law, many experts called for the foundation of a police force dedicated to protecting tourists, who are often left without any support when problems arise.
The aim is to turn Viet Nam into a civilised and safe destination for visitors at all times. At present, many complain that most local police do not understand English or seem to care if they consider the problems are petty - or beyond their control. One tourist had to fight with a laundry owner to get his clothes back because he had mislaid his receipt.
This lack of protection exists despite the 5 per cent contribution made by tourism to gross domestic product (GDP) last year alone.
Several localities, including Da Nang and HCM City, have taken steps to set-up crime hotlines to assist foreigners or established groups to deal with their security. However, crime hotlines or these groups were said to operate not much effective.
In your opinion, what should Viet Nam do to better to help and protect tourists? Is the foundation of a dedicated tourist police force necessary?
Please reply by e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org, or by fax to (84-4) 3 933 2311. Letters can be sent to The Editor, Viet Nam News, 11 Tran Hung Dao Street, Ha Noi. Replies must be received by Thursday morning, August 2.
Sen Doan, Vietnamese, Sydney
Customer service in Australia is quite good. Customers can generally exchange or be compensated for poor products and services if they are not satisfied within 14 days.
Most shop owners are professional. They and their staff are usually very friendly. They serve customers with care because they know the regulations and they also want repeat business.
I used to work in a restaurant in Sydney where I learned how to serve a customer carefully. Once, a customer asked for Vietnamese noodles but did not mention that he did not want bean shoots.
When the dish was put down, he refused to eat. Without hesitation, my boss offered him another bowl without the bean shoots. This would never happen at any restaurant in Viet Nam.
I still remember buying a pair of Nike shoes, but later regretted the decision and decided to return them. I approached the store anxiously because the shoes cost almost US$150.
Moreover, I recalled an unpleasant experience at TD Plaza shopping mall in Viet Nam where I bought a pair of Converse shoes. I later found out that the shoes did not fit me. So, the day after, I returned them. The shopkeeper looked at me disdainfully and said: "Products can only be exchanged the same day."
However, the Sydney shoe store manager took back the shoes I had bought and returned the money without hesitation. The money was transferred via bank account. She also made me welcome and introduced me to other shoe styles.
There is also a big difference between service providers in the two countries. In Viet Nam, most restaurants, hotels and shops do not understand the importance of good service, including customer service, but in Australia, they know that if the service is poor customers won't return.
Chris Evans, British, Viet Nam
The situation regarding consumer rights in Viet Nam is typical of that in many developing economies. I could name a string of countries where consumer rights are virtually unheard of.
Only in recent years have many countries begun to advance towards the level of service and protection enjoyed by consumers in Europe, which is far better than that offered in the United States.
But what can be done in Viet Nam? The answer is that there is much that can be done, although it will take a long campaigning by the consumer organisation – Viet Nam Standards and Consumers Association (VINASTAS) .
It is a member of Consumers International, so has access to a reasonably well funded sister organisation with many years of experience at assisting countries like Viet Nam.
Significant assistance can also come from the media. If the media gets behind VINASTAS campaigns and adds to the gentle but persistent pressure on the Government, it will eventually strengthen consumer-protection policies and, most importantly, their implementation. All governments need the support of the masses, who are, of course, consumers!
I am in Viet Nam to advise the Government on implementing its new regulations on the energy labelling of electrical goods. The rules are intended to protect both consumers and the environment.
Hopefully, Viet Nam will eventually be free from unscrupulous manufacturers who use the nation as a dumping ground for outmoded, energy-hungry appliances.
Manh Ninh, Vietnamese, Moscow
The Vietnamese Law on Consumer Rights Protection (No 59/2010/QH12) failed to make sure these rights were made known to its citizens. As a result, consumers are often in the dark on how to protect themselves from bad producers or agents.
Meanwhile, in many countries, including Russia, laws on consumer rights make sure that all citizens know they exist and how to use them. Russia's law on protecting buyers states that if consumers buy defective commodities, they can ask producers to replace them – or they can demand a refund.
And, consumers also have the right to demand compensation for damages caused by any defective product. Producers must respond to claims from customers within 10 days, either replacing the goods or offering refunds.
The law is really effective. For example, my friend bought a Canon camera for US$200, but there was a flaw in the device's software. The camera was, at that time, still under warranty, so, after assessment, the Canon agent gave him a new camera. The procedure took four days.
I, for example, once bought RAM DDR stick instead of RAM DDRII. Two days later, I took the stick back to exchange for the right one I should have bought. The procedure was so quick, but it is necessary to remember that consumers should keep their warranties and bills.
Shin Pham, Vietnamese, Ha Noi
The law on consumer's rights plays an important role at present. It not only protects consumers, but also boosts the economy by keeping customers happy.
Vietnamese consumers now benefit from the country's international integration can access a wide range of top brand names, but there are risks. A friend bought a foreign phone that allowed him to use two different phone numbers and to install many interesting applications.
However, after six months, the phone broke down. At the same time, the producer closed its store in Viet Nam. The buyer had no choice but to accept the loss.
This is why the law on consumer-rights' protection must be enforced. If the law prevails, everyone will benefit. Shops or companies trying to cheat should be severely punished and closed down.
Eun Ye Choi, Korean, Paris
As a student in France, I usually go shopping in the sale season. It's the best time of the year! However, even at their busiest, shops still offer their best services and high-quality products.
If I change my mind about any product, especially clothes, within a 30-day period, I can take them back and have them replaced - or get a refund.
When I eat at restaurants and feel unsatisfied with the food, prices or staff, I immediately speak to the manager. It always works!
The Sale of Goods Act requires the seller to repair any goods that are damaged or do not work properly free of charge. The repairs or replacement must be completed within a reasonable time and without any significant inconvenience to the consumer. — VNS