World Consumer Rights Day falls today:
Sri Lanka far ahead in South Asian region - CAC Chairman
Attorney-at-Law and Chairman of the Consumer Affairs Council,
In Sri Lanka, this day is celebrated under the patronage of the
Ministry of Trade, Marketing Development, Cooperatives and Consumer
Services. It is an occasion to remind ourselves, as consumers, about the
rights we inherit due to the fact of being ‘consumers’.
It is also a time to renew the pledge of protecting the rights of
consumers from market abuse, exploitation and other various injustices.
Unfortunately there is a tendency, mainly borne out of ignorance, to
ignore the importance of ‘consumer rights’ today.
This is a great peril which we all should overcome.Senior
Attorney-at-Law and Chairman of the Consumer Affairs Council (CAC) Upali
Senaratne contacted by the `Sunday Observer’ for his views for the
‘World Consumer Rights Day’ said that the Council, established pursuant
to the Consumer Affairs Authority Act of 2003, is the principal body
which hears and determines all applications and references made
concerning the protection of consumers under the Act.
It also functions as a higher body entrusted with the power to review
decisions of the Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA), which is another
vital organisation established under the Act.
The CAC Chairman, Upali Senaratne, in laying out the importance of
the Consumer Rights Day highlighted the significance of late President
John F. Kennedy’s special message to the Congress on `Protecting
Consumer Interest’, on March 15, 1962, wherein he stated:- “Consumers,
by definition, include us all.
They are the largest economic group, affecting and affected by almost
every public and private economic decision. Yet they are the only
important group... whose views are often not heard.”
Noting the importance of protecting consumers and the broader
implications of doing so, Chairman Senaratne quoted the message which
stated:- “If the consumer is unable to choose on an informed basis, then
his dollar is wasted, his health and safety may be threatened, and the
national interest suffers’. President Kennedy went on to list safety,
information, choice and the right to be heard, as fundamental rights of
the consumer, he added.
Referring to the broader international framework that is in place to
promote consumer rights Mr. Senaratne mentioned the importance of, inter
alia, the UN Guidelines for Consumer Profession (as expanded in 1999)
and the role and function of the Consumers International, founded in
1960, which is a world federation of consumer groups which collaborated
as an independent and authoritative global voice for consumers.
This has the official representation of important international
organizations such as the UN Economic and Social Council, World Health
Organisation (WHO) and also the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
On the steps taken by Sri Lanka concerning the protection of consumer
rights, Mr. Senaratne stated that the country is one of the few
countries in the South Asian region which has done much to protect the
consumers, through numerous legislative enactments and other measures.
In this regard, the Consumer Affairs Authority Act of 2003 was an
important development in the recent history of consumer protectionism in
The Act provides for the protection of consumers against the
marketing of hazardous goods/services, against unfair trade practices,
and strives to ensure that consumers have adequate access to
goods/services at competitive prices and are able to seek redress
against unfair and restrictive trade practices.
The functions and responsibilities of the Consumer Affairs Authority
and the Consumer Affairs Council are directed towards these purposes.
However, further in this regard, Mr. Senaratne stated that it is
important to note that the Act provides for the protection of traders
and manufacturers as well.
Such protection is also facilitated through the provisions of the Act
which aim at protecting competitive pricing to ensure healthy
competition among traders and manufacturers of goods and services.
Mr. Senaratne made special reference to the measures taken by the
Government concerning the promotion and protection of consumer rights,
and of the direction and guidance shown by the Minister Bandula
The Council has started the conduct of inquiries relating to
complaints made by consumers, especially on anti-competitive trading
practices. Mr. Senaratne also mentioned that around seventy five percent
of the cases before the Council has already been disposed of during a
short time span of around one month.