Ministry of Commerce Opens Consumer Affairs Department

By San Yamin Aung 19 September 2013

RANGOON—The Ministry of Commerce has set up a consumer affairs department that will open local offices in Rangoon and Mandalay this week, an official said, adding that a Consumer Protection Bill is due for discussion in Parliament soon.

A local NGO welcomed the move, saying that currently Burmese consumers have no recourse if their rights are violated.

A senior Commerce Ministry official said the new consumer affairs department plans to open local offices in Burma’s 14 states and divisions, including two branches in Rangoon and Mandalay. The latter two offices, he added, were scheduled to open on Thursday.

The official, who declined to be named as he was not authorized to speak to the media, said the department was set up ahead of the approval of a Consumer Protection Bill, which was sent to Parliament in July.

The official said the department would try to educate consumers, producers and civil society groups about consumer rights and complaint resolution. “We will arrange workshops to collaborate with consumers and producers associations, and non-governmental organizations working on consumer protection,” he said.

Ba Oak Khine, chairman of the Consumer Protection Association, said the organization would work with the new government department on these issues.

“We will need to collaborate with the consumer affairs department,” he said, adding that the NGO would try to help “deal with complaints about car importing companies, or some other companies, that intend to cheat consumers.”

The association’s secretary Soe Kalar Htike said Burma needs a Consumer Protection Law and a consumer affairs department in order to raise awareness over consumer protection among both producers and the public.

“Most of our citizens think that it’s worth forgiving [sellers] even if certain practices break consumers’ rights. I want to remind them that they have a duty to prevent those things from happening again to others,” she said.

Thuzar, a female resident of Rangoon’s Sanchaung Township, said she welcomed the plans to better protect Burmese consumers’ rights.

“I have often experienced buying some below-standard product, like when I buy food that is not fresh or already expired. But I don’t know how to complaint about that,” Thuzar said, adding that she hoped that the consumer affairs department would set up phone lines where the public can lodge complaints.