Ministry of Industry and Commerce has issued additional legal backup to support the formation and operation of a consumer protection association to protect the interests of consumers.
Commerce Minister, Mrs Khemmani Pholsena on July 30 endorsed the ministerial regulation amid growing public concern that some businesspeople are mistreating customers, in violation of the 2010 version of the consumer protection law.
According to the regulation, which is accessible at the Lao Official Gazette website, the consumer protection association is a nonprofit organisation which represents consumers with its role and duty to provide assistance and technical advice to protect their interests.
A group of three Lao citizens aged over 18 years old with relevant qualifications are eligible to submit their proposals to form an association to represent consumers and protect their welfare in disputes with goods and service providers, the regulation says.
To establish the association, the founding members must submit a statement of the organisation’s mission to relevant authorities.
For an association wanting to operate within a district it must have at least 10 members, while those functioning within a province territory and nationwide shall have at least 15 and 20 members respectively, according to the regulation.
Under this regulation, the consumer protection association has rights to operate and serve the interests of consumers in line with the Party policy, socio-economic development plan, constitution and laws and its own endorsed rules.
On top of that, the association is a self-financing organisation, which has the right to mobilise funds to support its operation from local and international donors, so it has enough resources to serve consumers. The association also has the right to recruit international volunteers.
The association can provide aid, technical advice for consumers in disagreements with businesses over unfair treatment. Additionally, it can represent consumers to mediate and file legal charges against unfair treatment by goods and service providers.
The association can also provide feedback for authorities so they can improve regulations, laws and mechanisms to protect consumers from unscrupulous businesses in Laos.
The Lao government enacted the consumer protection law in 2010 and promulgated the decree on the association in 2017. However, in recent years, there has been limited involvement by nonprofit organisations in efforts against unethical business practices.
The decision by the commerce ministry to issue regulations covering the consumer protection association aims to provide a legal foundation for the organisation to function and serve the public.
By Times Reporters
(Latest Update August 12, 2020)
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