Consumer right activists have accused the government and big traders of delaying endorsement of Consumer Protection Policy.
Though government officials had expressed commitment to endorse the policy by February last year after studying a report prepared by the Forum for Protection of Consumers´ Right (FPCR), they have failed to live up to the commitment.
The report prepared by FPCR has been gathering dust in Consumer Protection Council (CPC) for more than three months.
Consumer right activists accuse the government of dragging its feet on the policy due to pressure from big traders. “Big traders have been piling pressure on government not to endorse the policy because they won´t be able to cheat consumers by involving in foul plays like black-marketing or artificial shortage of commodities once the policy is endorsed,” Jyoti Baniya, general secretary of FPCR, said. “Upholding consumer rights and promoting fair market practice is not in government´s priority.”
The proposed policy envisages forming consumer courts in all 75 districts to handle cases related to consumer rights, formation of Department of Consumer Protection and Supply Management to look after supply part and ensure rights of consumer. Likewise, the draft policy also proposes forming Consumer Protection Trust at the center to launch consumer awareness campaigns and allocate funds for the purpose.
Madhav Timsina, president of Consumers´ Right Investigation Forum (CRIF), said the policy is not seeing the light of day because of the government´s dilly-dallying on the policy. “It is a matter of shame that the government, under pressure from some handful of traders, is dragging its feet on endorsement of the policy. This shows that the government is not serious about protecting the rights of consumers,” added Timsina.
Saying that shortage of liquefied petroleum (LP) gas aggravated because of the lack of a strong consumer policy, Timsina said, “Black marketing and artificial shortage of goods will not come to end unless Consumer Protection Policy is endorsed.”
Consumer right activists say traders have objection on some issues included in the draft policy. “Due to pressure from traders, government officials have stopped calling us to attend discussion on the draft,” they added.
Government officials, however, refute charges leveled by consumer right activists. “We have kept endorsement of Consumer Protection Policy in our priority list. But it is getting delayed as we have not been able to forge consensus among stakeholders on some provisions,” Deepak Subedi, spokesperson of Ministry of Commerce and Supplies (MoCS), told Republica. “I am hopeful that the next meeting of CPC will forge an understanding among stakeholders and forward the draft to the cabinet for endorsement.”
Meanwhile, Shambhu Koirala, newly appointed director general of Department of Commerce and Supply Management (DoCSM), said the department has not received any updates on the policy endorsement from the ministry.