The Division also conducts market investigations and raids with a view to nab errant traders who violate the provisions of the Consumer Affairs Authority Act with regard to regulation of trade. These market investigations are conducted by the Head Office and the network of District offices of the Consumer Affairs Authority and the traders who are nabbed for violating the provisions are prosecuted in the respective Magistrate's Courts.
To encourage the good business practices lawful business, CAA has introduced “Model Shop” concept and has developed a set of criteria which a business should fulfill in order to become a model shop. The CAA conducts awareness programs for the traders associations, chamber of commerce, and companies on the current consumer law and “Model Shop” concept in order to promote good business practices and safeguard consumer rights.
One of the main functions of the Authority is to promote consumer education with regard to good health, safety and security of consumers. Consumer Affairs Authority has identified several strategies in order to disseminate information to the consumers. In this context the Consumer Affairs and Information Division conducts workshops for different target groups such as government officials, school children and teachers, university students, community based organizations, consumer activists, housewives etc.
The Division encourages the establishment of Consumer Organizations at regional level which is one of the core functions of the Authority. The objective of the establishment of these Consumer Organizations is that consumers living in a particular area could voice their grievances on consumer issues through these organizations and also they could make their own consumer community aware of the consumer rights and responsibilities. Further, they can take initiative corrective action against to promote lawful business in their village/town through these Organizations. The main challenge faced currently is to design a strategy for the sustainability of these Organizations.
Currently CAA is working closely with the district administrative setup in order to identify strategies to establish to network of active consumer societies at grass root level.
Importance of consumer awareness
AN ALERT CONSUMER IS A SAFE CONSUMER!
“Consumers by definition include all citizens who are by and large the biggest group who are affected by almost all government, public or privet decisions.”
John F Kennedy
Former President of United States
In the market economy manufactures always try to maximize profits. There are lots of goods available in the market such as milk products, meat or fish products, genetically modified food products, fruits, soft drinks, edible oil etc. But unfortunately consumers do not know the ingredients of these products. Sometimes manufactures are not following safety regulations in the products like electrical equipment’s, cement, LPG cylinders, switches, sockets, batteries. This leads to many fatal accidents. Adulteration of food, artificially colored vegetables and fruits are very harmful to our health. Manufactures do not concern the quality of the goods and services. It is not important for them the impact on health of people and the environment. In a market economy producer who decides what the consumer should want. In other side consumers are misled by the advertising techniques. Consumption patterns are changing fast today. When we buy goods and services it is very important to check details before buying products. When we consider all above problems there must be an organized and systematic movement for safeguarding the interests of the consumers.
It is very important that the consumers are aware of their rights. In there the government has to play an important role, by enacting suitable laws and enforcing them effectively. In this point consumers have a major role. They must be aware of all rules and regulations regarding consumer protection. Because education is a lifelong process, consumer education is an important part of this process.
The most important step in consumer education is awareness of consumer rights, responsibilities and duties of consumers. Consumers must learn to obtain information about goods and services, understand the psychology of selling and adverting, learn to shop wisely and distinguish between wants and needs.
BADULU TABLET INSCRIPTION BRINGS HISTORICAL TRUTH ON CONSUMER PROTECTION
While series of internationally accepted consumer rights were originated from America and though that primary truth was contained in Sri Lankan stone inscription written in 10th century, we might think that the said fact is not true. However, these facts were included in Badulu Dem inscription written in 10th century.
Once 4th King Udaya went to Mahiyangana Chaitiya pilgrimage and residents of Hopithigamuwa who came there held an agitation saying ‘trustees of kings’ shops, penalty leaders and their servants have collected penalty, due tax, bribe in contrary to Kings Law. Because of this agitation statute was brought saying ‘tax should not be collected as per the Decree of pre King Kasyapa era. This statute was inscribed in the Badulu Dem letter. Not only levy of tax, many important issues related to social life were contained here. Consumer Right is a special feature contained here.
Hopitigama commercial village in Sorabora area, closer to Mahiyangana was discovered. Badula Dem letter is more famous than the Sorabora Dem letter which is identified as Hopitigama Dem letter. John Baily, Assistant Agent, Badulla District in 1851 brought this Dem letter which was unprotected and subjected for rain and sun, is kept in a decorated pavilion near the Kachcheri, Badulla (present Peoples’ Bank premises), for public viewing. This is the largest Dem letter with small letters among those discovered in Sri Lanka. The special feature here is that the said Dem contains series of statute which brings much satisfaction to the public.
The stone measuring 8 feet and 5 inch with four sides A B C D has 47, 49, 49 and 58 lines on those sides respectively. It is shown in the below mentioned picture.
Dr. Senarath Paranawithana says that the issue stated here could be categorized into 4 main parts.
- Rules relating to penalty imposition
- Rules relating to Govt. officers
- Trading policy
- Consumer Rights
Letters were inscribed with line and each issue was presented separately while the final scripture is completed with symbols such as sun, moon, crow and dog. These symbols indicate that the said inscription will remain in force till the sun and moon exists and violators will be reincarnated as dogs and crows. Since they feared that they would be reborn as dogs and crows as retribution, they have not violated this statute as they believed that the violators would be punished.
Among issues embodied here, rules and regulations relating to consumer protection are as follows:
- Other measuring system than Govt. tax measuring system should not be used
- Injustice through unauthorized balance and weight (while stamping)
- Not to sell goods at unsuitable place
- Selling goods at places where business is not done
- Goods not to be sold should not be sold
- Keep betel and nut at pavilion for sale
- When found things are sold at unsuitable place, remove them by Govt. servants
- Take two fold tax to undeclared goods without any problem
these kinds of many issues were contained.
The above issues were taken into consideration when formulating accepted consumer rights at international level. The above issues were contained in the provision of Consumer Authority Act No. 9 of 2003. It is to say that enactment is made saying that betel and areca nut which have to be focused on consumers health concern, has to be marketed at pavilion. Betel and areca nut are popular among the public. Since they are instantly consumed it should be kept clean.
Similarly, the King’s era Decree says that usage of weight and measure which do not comply with required standard should be avoided. This rule is more modified in the present context through ‘Weight and Measure Ordinance’. The rule that says that ‘goods should not be kept at ‘unsuitable place and market them’ was further amended as per Public Nuisance Ordinance No.15 of 1862 which say ‘selling or prompting to sell food and drink which are unsuitable for consumption and become poisonous through consumption is a punishable offence.
The above statute which was inscribed on stone with Brahmiya letters at a primitive level in 10th century is now used to keep public life at a better level. While we have passed hundreds of years and come to the present era, various common issues existed in the King era are still prevalent. The Statute enacted in that era is still useful to the present time.
CONSUMER AFFAIRS AUTHORITY
ACT, NO.9 OF 2003
PROMOTION OF COMPETITION AND CONSUMER INTEREST
Procedure adopted by the Authority in handling a Complaint on Anti-Competitive Practices
Where the application is made to the Council as the case may be, it shall be the duty of the Council to make its order in respect of anti-competitive practices on the parties concerned for the termination of such anti-competitive practices if it is against the PUBLIC INTEREST on such application after an inquiry. For the purpose of investigations the Authority has the powers of a District Court.
Any item of goods or services, which is considered as essential to the life of the community, may be “specified” as an essential commodity by the Hon.Minister In charge of the subject of Consumer Affairs Authority, acting under Section 18 of the Act, and an order to that effect would be published in the gazette of the Government of Sri Lanka Prescribing such item as a specified item. Once an item is gazette manufactures or traders shall not increase the price the price of such product without the prior written approval of the Authority. A period of 30 days is provided for the authority to examine the application for any price revision and convey the decision to the applicant company.
The examination of the cost structure pertaining to an application for a price revision of a ”specified” commodity, by making reference to supportive documentary evidence furnished by the applicant, and making recommendations to the Authority is the main function of the pricing & management division. This division is also consulted prior to introducing fiscal measures, like import duty changes, subsidies, rebates, etc. with a view to reducing prices or retain them at current levels, whenever prices are likely to escalate due to supply and demand forces.
The prices approved by the authority for any particular product may vary from brand to brand, which leaves each brand identity undisturbed depending on the special distinguishing features of a brand and the company’s marketing strategies. The objective in examining a price is to ensure that prices are not increased indiscriminately. The final objective of the pricing & management division for fair pricing to prevail by fostering competition is a guiding factor in the price determination of essential commodities.
The division is responsible to study and purpose prices for essential commodities and to make recommendations to the authority on pricing policies. The division is also required to recommend prices when entering in to agreements with manufactures and traders in terms of section 14 of the act after studying the production patterns, price trends, market conditions, International prices etc. undertaking public and private sector efficiency studies is also one of the functions of the division.
A manufacture or trader who seeks to obtain the approval of the authority shall make an application in that behalf to the authority.
Powers vested to the authority by CAA act no.09 of 2003, for regulating the pricing mechanism
|(A)||Section 14 – Agreement to provide for maximum price of good.
The authority may enter into written agreement with any manufacturer or trader or any association of manufactures or traders
To provide for
|(B)||Section 18 – prior written approval for price revision of specified goods.
Where the minister is of the opinion that any goods or any service is essential to the life to the community or part thereof, the minister in consultation with the authority may be order published in the gazette prescribe such goods or such service as specified goods or specified service the case may be.
No manufacture or trader shall increase the retail or wholesale price of any good or service specified under section 18(1) of the CAA Act, except with the prior written approval of the authority.
|(C)||Section 19 & 20 – By order published in the Gazette, fix the maximum price.
Where it appears to the Director General that any goods are being sold or any services are being provided by a manufacture or trader at an excessive price the Director General may in consultation with the Authority, refer such matter to the council for investigation and report.
On the receipt of the recommendation of council under section 20(4), the Authority shall by order publish in the gazette, fix the maximum price.
Manufacturer or Trader shall not increase the price of any specified good or services without the prior approval of the Authority. To obtain the approval of the Authority the applicant must be sent the application to the Authority.
The Compliance & Enforcement division is the legal arm of the authority & is mainly responsible for the enforcement of the provisions of the Consumer Affairs Authority Act no.09 of 2003 some of the functions of the division are given below.
Apart from the day to day activities, the division is responsible for drafting and preparation of proposals to amend the existing provisions in the act in order to enhance powers of the Authority and to minimize the barriers in the implementations of provisions. In achieving this task the division is involved in obtaining proposals, drafting and liaising with the respective Departments [Attorney General’s Department and the legal Draftsman’s Department] in sorting out varies issues.
The consumer complaints unit [CCU] attached to this division is responsible for the following;