KATHMANDU. Dishonest traders may be fined up to Rs100,000 on the spot under a new Consumer Protection Act the Supplies Ministry is currently preparing.
Concerned by proliferating incidences of adulteration, arbitrary pricing and sales of expired products, the government has planned to give teeth to the law as wrongdoers have been getting away most of the time.
Gokul Prasad Dhital, director general of the Department of Supplies Management, said a draft of the act the ministry has prepared contains a provision for instant fines.
The existing Consumer Protection Act 1998 has provisioned a cash penalty of Rs50,000 to Rs300,000 depending on the severity of the offence. If there is a threat to life, the concerned traders can be fined up to Rs500,000.
However, the inspection teams that keep a watch on the market have no authority to take action on the spot. They are permitted to conduct tests of the products on sale and place a ban on their production and supply for a certain period if they are found to be falling short of government standards.
Similarly, inspection officers can file a lawsuit within 35 days from the date of the completion of the investigation after getting the go-ahead from government lawyers.
The lengthy investigation process allows wrongdoers to destroy evidence before government officials can begin legal proceedings and escape punishment. “The proposed provision will help minimise such problems,” Dhital said.
According to him, the government will also be including a provision for the establishment of consumer courts in each of the 75 districts. “Separate courts will help to provide fast and effective decisions regarding consumer issues to ensure their rights.”
This is not the first time that the government has tried to set up consumer courts. An attempt had been made two years ago, but the plan unravelled. The department has been able to take action against only a few offending firms in the absence of a provision for spot-based action consumer courts. The department’s records show it conducted checks of 1,245 business outlets in the first four months of this fiscal year.
Among them, 243 sellers were found operating without displaying price lists, 307 had not renewed their licences and 148 were found selling expired products. The department sealed 66 outlets among them.
During the special market monitoring carried out last August, the department had sealed 50 outlets. It had begun proceedings against 13 errant firms, but the charges had to be dropped for lack of strong evidence.
Supplies Minister Deepak Bohara said that the ministry had planned to set up consumer courts by including a provision in the new act.
“We are in the process of obtaining the consent of stakeholders, and will soon submit the draft act to the Cabinet after finalising it,” said Minister Bohara.
Published: 02-01-2017 10:00, The Kathmandu Post