THE call for a consumer council to be set up in the country should not be swept under the carpet.
The council is supposed to be a non-departmental public body whose principal statutory duty is to promote and safeguard the interests of consumers.
The Consumer and Competition framework review says PNG currently has only limited laws for consumer protection, which mainly concern product safety.
Since 2002, the Independent Consumer and Competition Commission (ICCC) has been responsible for administering and enforcing competition and consumer laws under the Independent Consumer and Competition Commission Act 2002 (ICCC Act) and several other PNG Acts.
While we have the ICCC, it is a Government body.
The commission has been taking a proactive approach, particularly in relation to consumer product safety and, increasingly, the recall of unsafe consumer products.
An extract from the review says the team aims to:
- Identify the most-common and most-serious consumer protection issues in PNG;
- evaluate how well consumer interests are protected by existing laws (including the ICCC Act);
- examine the effectiveness of current enforcement measures for protection of consumers; and,
- Identify options for improvement of consumer protection in PNG.
Our question is how far this has gone in actually making life easier and better for the consumers, with the volatile and mostly inflationary situation of prices and poor quality of goods and services at the detriment of final consumers in PNG.
An example is where a good number of shops are selling different types and brands of electric wires in the market and some of them are described as Australian/American or Chinese products.
What are we doing about the safety of the consumers, especially in the wake of a destructive fire outbreak due to poor electrical installations at our homes and at public places like markets?
Our PNG markets today are full of sub-standard products – both food and non-food items – with very poor quality standards that are affecting our health and wellbeing.
These products expose people to high risk, and eventually cost individual’s huge amounts of money when they become victims of circumstances and had no choice but to restore to normalcy.
These are unfortunate but sad realities of the life we continue to live in this part of the world, and indeed unfortunate that nobody is there to speak for consumers in PNG when their fundamental rights are violated and resources wasted.
Power is now in the hands of the consumer. People are empowered and they know it.
Customers today want the very most and the best for the every kina they spent, and on the best conditions.
There is indeed, serious dissatisfaction among consumers all over the country but sadly, no formal platform or forum exist to launch complaints.
In the meantime, we must not forget that laws only cannot protect consumers; awareness will be the key.
While we call for a consumer council to protect consumers, it is also incumbent for the Government to educate consumers about their rights.
Upholding the consumer right also means consolidating the rights of the citizens.
Consumer councils world over are doing wonderful works that impact the life of a common man in the street in such a remarkable way that they are well-known and very much appreciated.
Consumer protection empowers the consumers, which in turn will make buyers more confident, thereby helping build a stronger economy, boost competition and growth.