Vietnamese consumers unaware of right to safe, authentic goods

March, 22/2016 - 09:00

Nguyễn Mạnh Hùng, Vice Chairman of the Việt Nam Standards and Consumers’ Association, spoke to Hải Quan (Customs) newspaper about consumer’s rights day.


March 15 is consumer’s rights day in Việt Nam. What’s the significance of the day?

The event is a milestone in the country’s efforts to protect Vietnamese consumer’s rights.

In other countries this days has been observed for roughly the last 50 years. But for Việt Nam, March 15, 2016 was the first time it was observed as consumer’s rights day. The event showed the Government’s resolve to protect consumers’ rights.

The Law on Protection of Consumer’s Right came into force five years ago and it contains eight rights and responsibilities of a consumer.

A key message of consumer’s rights day is the consumer’s right to safety. Why did Vinastas choose that slogan?

Consumers nowadays face many risks, particularly unsafe food and low quality commodities.

That’s why the consumers’ demand for safety is legitimate. It is not accidental that among the eight rights of a consumer, safety has priority.

2016 was the first year Việt Nam dedicated a day for consumer’s rights. I highly appreciated that decision made by the government.

Among the eight rights of a consumer is the right to lodge a petition or complaint of low quality goods or services to authorities. Why haven’t many people exercised that right?

I want to conduct a survey on that topic, but I don’t have the money and could not find a sponsor.

I think that Vietnamese people don’t want to file a law suit for a simple matter that will be time consuming and they don’t have much faith in getting justice. Also, the legal system in Việt Nam is very complicated. A case in point was a food poisoning in Bến Tre Province, in the Mekong delta in 2013 where more than 170 people were poisoned. But only 22 of them lodged a joint law suit. They won the case, but the 22 victims were compensated with a sum of only VNĐ20 million (US$1,000). That’s not all; it took two years for the court to settle the case!

It has been said that Vietnamese consumers don’t have much awareness of their rights. Do you agree?

I couldn’t agree more! In reality, many of our consumers’ rights have been infringed upon, but no organisation stood up to protect their rights, even local governments. The existing Law on the Protection of Consumers’ Rights states clearly that each province must have an organisation to protect consumers. But until now only 50 out of 63 provinces and cities nation-wide have created organisations to protect their consumers.

To my knowledge, only between 4-8 per cent of our government officers know about the Law on the Protection of Consumers’ Rights, even though it came into force five years ago.

What should we do to ensure consumers’ rights?

Since the enactment of the Law on the Protection of Consumers’ Rights, the general public and enterprises’ awareness of consumer’s rights has improved considerably. But it is still far away from consumers’ expectation. Unsafe and fake goods are still widely sold.

To raise people’s awareness, we have to step up the communication campaign to all of society, including government officials, workers, farmers and others. However, the government should take the role as the “director” in the campaign as the State has both the authorisation and resources available to perform this task._VNS