Tran Minh Dung, chief inspector of the Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST), talks to local media about new legislation on toy standards that aim to ensure quality while safeguarding children.
Members of the public have expressed concerns over the amount of poor quality toys on sale all over the country. What can your ministry do about that?
By 2012, I think much progress was recorded in quality control. In 2012 alone, inspectors from the Ha Noi Department of Science and Technology visited 109 toy manufacturers, import companies and outlets, and 25 violations of the Law on Standards were detected.
Departments for Standards, Metrology and Quality in 39 provinces/cities also conducted 406 inspections and found more than 10,000 toys out of 29,000 did not meet quality standards.
MoST realises that it is high time for nationwide checks on the quality of children's toys. Inspections are planned for August or September this year - prior to the Children's Autumn Festival which falls on September 19. We hope this will produce an objective assessment of toy manufacturers, importers and sellers nationwide.
Low quality children toys have been a serious problem for many years, but in the inspection drive, what will be the focus?
I should say that toy manufacturers in Viet Nam are mostly located in big cities like Ho Chi Minh City and Ha Noi.
However, the majority of toys are imported. During the inspections, we'll focus on big supermarkets and check the quality of toys on display. If there are any doubts about quality, we'll send them to the laboratory for testing.
Regarding imported toys, I have to concede that they are a headache. Illegal cross border trade is a big problem for quality control. As a result, toys sold in small shops or convenience stores are often illegally imported and low quality.
I hope the inspections will help us to improve awareness among toy-sellers, importers and manufacturers on the need to protect our children.
How will you punish violations?
Under Article 16 in Decree 54 issued in 2009, violators will be fined from VND 10-15 million ($475 - 660). But in reality, these amounts are not enough to form a deterrent to stop people compared to the money they can make. The PM has assigned MoST to revise Decree 54 and increase fines for those who break the law.
How many agencies will be involved in the upcoming inspections?
As I have mentioned above, a key objective of the inspections is to raise the awareness of producers and public market controllers. However, the most critical problem we're facing at present is the illegal importation of poor quality toys through cross border trade.
We are going to co-ordinate with relevant agencies to assess the producers, importers and sellers while raising the responsibility and accountability of government officials and consumer awareness. We will also work closely with other law enforcement agencies. — VNS