by Anika Mardiha Chowdhury

A consumer is a person who receives goods and services from a business-engaged person and a consumer is not directly involved in the trade. In a general sense, consumers or customers are those who wish to purchase or hire goods and services from sellers or manufacturers. Consumer rights are fundamental to human rights. In other words, according to a European author consumer law comprises “the body of standards, rules, and instruments representing the juridical fruit borne by the various efforts that have been made to secure or improve the protection of the consumer on the economic market.

According to Articles 15 and 18 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh states the rights of consumers as it contained the area of citizens’ general rights. Article 15 states that the right to food security is a fundamental principle of public policy for sustainable livelihoods. Article 18 states that public order must promote public health and nutrition and prevent the abuse of drinks and drug addiction. However, the Consumer Rights Protection Act, 2009 was enacted to deal with consumer affairs. The Law is an addition to several other relevant laws dealing with consumer rights and their protection mechanisms sporadically.

The Consumer Rights Protection Act, 2009 has been enacted to protect the rights of the consumers, prevention of anti-consumer rights practices, and any other matters connected herewith. To carry out the main purpose of this Act in chapter II provides an establishment of council which shall consist of the Minister in charge of the Ministry of Commerce, who shall also be its Chairman then the Secretary of the Ministry of Commerce, the Director General of the National Security Intelligence Department, the Director General of the Bangladesh Standard and Testing Institution and many others. The council is called the National Consumers’ Right Protection Council and the tenure of any nominated member of the Council shall be two years and six months from the date of his nomination. At least one meeting of the Council shall be held in every two months and the functions of the Council shall formulate policy on the protection of the rights of the consumers for this Act and give directions to the Director General and the District Committee to implement the policy and others. For carrying out the purposes of this Act, in every district, there shall be a District Committee to be called the District Consumers’ Right Protection Committee. The Council shall submit an annual report containing the details of its functions to the Government within 3oth June of every year.

Chapter III discuss the role of the Directorate of National Consumers’ Right Protection. The Directorate shall give assistance to the Council in performing all its functions and shall be responsible for the execution of the decisions of the Council. Also, he will work for the protection of the rights of the consumers, prevention of anti-consumer rights practice, and will take necessary steps for preventing any apprehended act likely to violate the consumers right along with necessary actions thereupon.

The Directorate shall take action after recording the reasons in writing. He can issue a warrant to arrest such a person or to search the place where such thing, document, paper, or other things related to the offense is kept. He can also order for a temporary closure of any shop, commercial enterprise, etc. for any anti-consumer right practice. It is to be mentioned that the Directorate shall take the conclusive decision by conducting regular hearings, examinations, and investigation and on consideration of the rights of the consumers after ascertaining whether any anti-consumer right practice has been committed actually for the reason of a violation of any provision of this Act or not.

Section 20 of the following Act states that any person may request the Director General through fax, e-mail, or any other means for taking necessary steps to facilitate the functions of the Director General, hereby means that any person or consumer can file a complaint through fax or e-mail if any of his rights violates. Under 76 any person either a consumer or likely to be a consumer can make a written complaint to the Director General or any person empowered by the Director General against any anti-consumer right practice under this Act. After receiving the complaint if found true allegations then the fine imposed by the Director General shall 25% of such realized fine immediately be paid to the complainant.

Under section 60 no complaint shall be accepted if such complaint is not made by any person to the Director General or any officer of the Directorate empowered on this behalf within (30) thirty days of arising the cause of action of any anti-consumer right practice under this Act. Section 61 states that the Magistrate shall not take cognizance of any offense if no charge sheet is submitted within ninety days of complaint made under section 60.

Chapter V states about the trial where Offences under this Act shall be tried by a Magistrate of the first class or a Metropolitan Magistrate. Also, the Act permits summary trial as prescribed in Chapter XXII of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898.

Chapter IV discusses about the punishments for example if any person violates any obligation, imposed by any Act or rules, of selling any goods within the cover and inscribing weight, amount, ingredients, or others he shall be punished with imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year or with fine not exceeding Taka fifty thousand or both. The chapter also discusses about the punishment for not preserving and displaying a price-list of services which imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year or with a fine not exceeding Taka fifty thousand or both. Also, there have punishments for mixing prohibited materials in foodstuff, Punishment for filing false or vexatious cases, and other punishments for the relevant offenses. Any person aggrieved by any judgment or order passed by the Magistrate may prefer an appeal to the Sessions Judge having local jurisdiction within sixty days of the judgment or order.

Along with the above-mentioned remedies the Act permits any person to redress civil remedies, as well as Chapter VI, states that in appropriate cases nothing shall debar any affected consumer from filing a civil suit in a competent Civil Court for claiming civil remedies against a person on the ground that any criminal proceeding has been initiated against the person for any anti-consumer right practice or the person has been convicted of a criminal offense for such act. Any person aggrieved with the judgment can appeal only to the High Court Division against the judgment and decree passed by a Court under section 67 within ninety days of such judgment and decree.

To execute the purpose of the following Act the Consumer Rights Protection Rules, 2020 enacted. Section 3 of the Rules discusses about the forms given in the schedule to be followed at the time of the complaint, after taking complainant, if fine imposed, and others. Then section 4 of the Rules states the procedure of complaint and the trial procedure also the procedure of investigation of the genuineness of the complaint. The Rules mainly state the procedure to be followed to execute the provisions of the Consumer Rights Protection Act, 2009.

The Consumer Rights Protection Act, 2009 is a bunch of rights of the consumers with advantages where under this Act the consumers can file an administrative complaint only. As per the Act of 2009, no complaint can be entertained by the Court without the approval of the Director General of the Consumer Rights Protection Department. Therefore, only competent government officers are entitled to institute a case under this law against any violation of such laws.  A consumer although barred from filing a direct complaint under the Consumers’ Rights Protection Act, 2009 but he can file a case under other Laws. The Law on consumer rights not only prohibits adulteration, hoarding, smuggling, black marketing, cheating or fraud in weight and measurement, or selling products at higher prices but also provides punishments for such acts.

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