Within the span of six months (July to December) this year, the Office of Consumer Protection (OCP) under the Ministry of Economic Affairs, penalized 50 business entities and shops for the violation of the Consumer Protection Act of Bhutan, 2012 and Consumer Protection Rules and Regulations, 2015. They were also caught engaging in deceptive and unethical trade practices. Furthermore, OCP also remedied eleven compensations to the aggrieved customers that amounted to Nu 118,039.
According to Chief Trade Officer of OCP, Jigme Dorji, the complaints received were of two natures; general, in which consumers were affected owing to unfair trade practices and no compensations were sought but rectification or some actions against the violator was sought instead.
The second is the individual complaints, which were more specific in nature, and generally resulted in the aggrieved wanting a refund or compensation from the defaulters.
From July till date, 14 business entities were rectified mostly on the grounds on deceptive practices.
Recalling an example of rectification, the Chief Trade Officer, Gopal Pradhan, said that the video of a person opening Amul Fresh milk, only to find water inside had been circulating on social media during the third quarter of 2021. It was verified that the company was conducting package leakage trial using water at the factory and some trial samples accidentally leaked into the market. The company representative immediately recalled and replaced the faulty goods at no additional cost to the consumers, and OCP has cautioned that such lapses, in future, will be dealt with according to the regulations.
Apparently, the most prominent complaints were related to hike in prices in which a business entity took advantages of various situations, like the COVID-19 pandemic, for charging unreasonable prices stating to unaware buyers that the price has escalated by twofold or threefold from the source, itself, which, in reality, was not true at all. The business entities are liable to penalization under Chapter 3, section 7, misleading representation and indication of prices of the Consumer protection Act of Bhutan, 2015.
Regarding the recent Karma Feeds issue, which resulted in deaths of thousands of poultry birds, OCP said they are in constant touch with the Department of Livestock, and awaiting the results of the test samples sent to Thailand and India to detect the level of toxicity.
From the recent enforcement and redressal report by the OCP, 7 mediations were facilitated, 14 business entities rectified, 11 refunds facilitated, fines and penalties imposed on 2 businesses, advisory service provided for 3 businesses, 9 cases referred to relevant agencies and 3 cases were ongoing. The consumer complaints from Thimphu were the highest (40) with one complaint each from Punakha and Trashigang, two each from Chhukha, Wangduephodrang and Paro, and one from Samtse. The rest 13 dzongkhags recorded zero complaints.
OCP is closely monitoring the trade practices in all the dzongkhags through various teams stationed in each dzongkhags, and through the Local Government figures, like the Gups. The team goes around the market to calibrate the weights and measurements. The team also goes to every shop for inspection including those in Laya, Lunana and Gasa, and now the price tag is mandatory in every shop.
OCP has also issued a notice on e-commerce businesses, with lists of all 106 registered e-commerce business entities who were authentic and vouched by the OCP, so the consumers can avoid the suspicious/deceptive ones. If required, OCP may also intervene in issues involving unregistered entity or individual and the consumers concerned, if they engage in a faulty deal.