HA NOI — Twelve months after a law on protecting consumer rights was put into operation, few people had a good understanding of what it is – or even knew that it existed, a workshop was told yesterday.
|Consumers purchase electronic goods at the PICO Mall in Ha Noi. — VNS Photo Truong Vi
According to the statistics from the Ministry of Industry and Trade, during 2011, more than 550 complaints were lodged to local departments of industry and trade, nearly 2,000 to consumer-rights' associations and 60 to the Competition Authority.
"There has been an increase compared to before the law came into force, but the figures are far from the reality," said vice president of the Viet Nam Standards and Consumer Rights Protection Association Nguyen Manh Hung.
Hung said many consumers hesitated to make a complaint because they thought it was time-consuming and the procedure was complicated.
Bui Nguyen Khanh from the Viet Nam Institute of State and Law said that enterprises selling low-quality or old goods tended to choose markets like Viet Nam where consumers' awareness remained low.
So, Vietnamese consumers were more exposed to the risk of buying fakes, low-quality goods or those that did not match the sales pitch.
Deputy director of the Competition Authority Nguyen Phuong Nam said local authorities nation-wide still paid little attention to protecting customers' right, adding that most provincial departments of industry and trade did not have a special department to look after complaints.
He said a serious lack of human resources to handle consumers' rights was mostly to blame. The Competition Authority has only 10 officials directly in charge of consumer rights protection. In provincial departments of industry and trade. there is often only one person to do the job. "They can't manage the huge load of work," Nam said.
Experts at the workshop agreed that more publicity was needed to raise community awareness on consumer rights, adding that consumers themselves should learn how to and when to complain.
In addition, the Government should help consumer-rights associations strengthen their activities.
A representative from Inax Viet Nam, a bathroom product company said that enterprises should be well aware that "protecting consumers means enterprises are protecting themselves".
According to lawyer Truong Thanh Duc from the Viet Nam International Arbitration Centre, the law at present was too broad and further attention needed to be given to special laws to fully tackle all consumer rights' matters.
The law on consumer rights protection was passed by the National Assembly in 2010 and came into force in July 1, 2011. — VNS