Watchdogs revived to protect consumers

The government has revived four watchdog agencies from deep sleep in an effort to make market monitoring more effective and protect consumers from anomalies.

The Consumers Council, Central Monitoring Committee, Market Competition Promotion Board and Central Supply Management Committee had been immobile for a long time due to the government’s apathy towards preventing anomalies in the market.

The market watchdog s have now been recharged so that they can check market anomalies, improve supplies of daily essential commodities and protect consumers from cartels and syndicates.

Although these bodies had been established a long time ago, they did not play an effective role in protecting consumer rights and were mostly inactive.

These monitoring bodies also include representatives from the private sector and consumer rights activists. “These bodies or committees will work solely on protecting the consumers and checking market anomalies by devising effective plans and policies in line with the changing context,” said Deepak Subedi, spokesperson of the Ministry of Commerce and Supplies.

Two months ago, the government had revived the Consumers Council chaired by the commerce minister.

It consists of the director general of the Department of Commerce and Supply Management as the member secretary and representatives from various ministries, the private sector and consumer rights bodies.

Narayan Prasad Bidari, director general of the department, said they had held two meetings since the formation of the council.

“The meetings have decided to carry out market inspection to prevent black marketing and other misconduct amid complaints of artificial shortages of essentials goods and price hikes,” he said.

Although Consumers’ Protection Act, 1998 had been envisioned as a high-level council to carry out daily monitoring and punish wrongdoers, it remained inactive for more than a decade due to lack of interest of successive governments.

Bimala Khanal, a member of the council, said that the council would work effectively to formulate and implement policies related to consumer issues.

Similarly, the government has also revived the Central Monitoring Committee by publishing a notice in the Nepal Gazette last week.

The 11-member committee, led by the joint secretary of the Commerce and Supplies Ministry, includes representatives from the Health Ministry, the Department of Food Technology and Quality Control and the private sector. This committee has been revived after four years in limbo.

The ministry said that the working areas of the committee would be fixed by a ministerial-level decision next week. Subedi said that they had sent a draft of the committee’s terms of reference to the Cabinet recently.

The government has also reinstated the Market Competition and Promotion Board.

The 11-member board is coordinated by the secretary of the Ministry of Commerce and Supplies while the director general of the department is the member secretary.

Subedi said that the board had been formed under Market Promotion and Protection Act, 2006. “The objective of the board is to prevent traders from forming cartels and syndicates and promote healthy competition in the domestic market.”

Likewise, the Central Supply Management Committee revived under Supply Policy, 2012 will work to ensure smooth supply of daily essential goods to consumers .

Source: eKantipur