As per records maintained by the Office of Consumer Protection (OCP), it received 19 written complaints within the period of fiscal year 2018-19.
The office also received complaints through national toll free helpline number, 1214 during the office hours. However, only four complaints pertaining to individual consumer related issue were noted. All types of consumer issues raised in social media platforms are also looked into by the office.
OCP continues to receive and redress numerous complaints or consumer issues received through toll free helpline number, walk-ins, Online Consumer Grievance Redressal System and social media in particular the Facebook page.
An official from OCP said that the complaints received are mostly related to unfair business practices like discontentment over failing to deliver goods and services within the agreed time and fraudulent trade practices in the market.
“The consumers seek intervention of OCP when they do not get services and products worth the amount they pay, there is an issue of product safety and expiry, consumers are charged with exorbitant price and any other unfair trade practices,” said the official.
Further, complaints are also related to general unfair trade practices in the market seeking market rectification.
Some of the complaints are related to non-compliance with the contract terms and conditions, exorbitant prices, product expiry, poor product quality, product safety and deficiency in services. Foreigners also obtain consumer protection services in Bhutan. Complaints lodged by tourists are against hoteliers and tour operators for various services.
Other than OCP, consumer advocates in the Regional Trade and Industry Offices (RTIOs) and Gups at the local government level are responsible authority to redress consumer complaints.
In order to facilitate quicker redressal to the aggrieved consumers, the OCP has established Dispute Settlement Procedure at three levels namely: Dispute Settlement at Gewog, Dzongkhag or Thromdees and OCP.
At the Gewog level, the Gup is mandated to address consumer complaints and resolve it amicably. If the issues cannot be resolved amicably, the Gup shall refer the matter to the Dispute Settlement Committee (DSC).
At Dzongkhag or Thromdee level, the RTIO shoulder the responsibility of Consumer Advocate to address consumer issues within their jurisdiction. If the issues cannot be resolved amicably, the Consumer Advocate refers the matter to the DSC.
OCP carries out investigation and facilitates mediation and conciliation for all individual consumer disputes. Further, all general unfair trade practices and issues have been investigated and intervened.
Based on the case, an aggrieved consumer is compensated for the loss either in terms of the goods and services or monetary value.
The guilty parties are liable for fines and penalties and even cancellation of the business license.
To deter unfair trade practices OCP, along with regional offices regularly monitor and inspect markets to ensure that the business entities are engaged in fair trading and promote competition in the market.
The official said that OCP has also conducted research in banking services of Bhutan to promote fair trade practices in the financial services sector.
“In the coming year, a study will be conducted in telecom service sector, education consultancy services and legal services. The studies are carried out to enhance consumer protection mechanism in all such sectors,” he said.
Out of the 19 complaints received, 17 have been resolved and the remaining two complaints are in progress.
Dechen Dolkar from Thimphu