Business houses breaching terms and conditions top consumer complaint 

In March 2023, the Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority (CCAA) under the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, and Employment received a total of 14 consumer complaints or disputes, according to the Consumer Protection and Unfair Business Practice Statistics.

From the total number of complaints received by the CCAA, 85.71% were about business entities breaching the terms and conditions, making false or misleading representations of prices, or selling defective or low-quality products. 14.29% of the complaints were related to unethical trade practices or misrepresentations by businesses, according to the report.

The report states that of the 14 complaints received by the CCAA, 13 were successfully resolved through mediation, while one case is currently being investigated. The Dispute Settlement Committee (DSC), Thrim Throm, resolved an individual consumer complaint pertaining to dispute over arrangement of two flight tickets from Paro International Airport to Perth with connecting flights from Singapore to Indonesia.

The ticket agent is alleged to have informed that Bhutanese do not require visas while transiting through Indonesian Airports. Further the complainant was not allowed to board in from the Singapore Airport and had to rebook the flight toward Perth, according to the report. Based on the investigation findings and evidences, DSC directed the ticket agent to refund about Nu 0.184mn to the complainant for making a false representation.

The DSC, Thim Throm, also resolved an individual complaint regarding the sale of a vehicle (a Toyota Fortuner 2022-model) through false/misleading indications of price. The complainant bought the vehicle after being informed that ‘additional tax’ was not applied for the said vehicle. However, after the transaction the complainant was intimated to deposit additional tax for the vehicle.

Based on the findings of the investigation and the evidence, DSC decided that the complainant was not liable to pay additional tax and directed that the vehicle dealer shall pay ‘additional tax’ of about Nu 0.499mn to the concerned department for providing misleading information to the consumer.

According to the report, the CCAA also come up with e-commerce entities to operate in a fair and transparent manner and provide consumers with a safe and trustworthy online marketplace.

From March 1-31, 107 registered e-commerce entities were being monitored to check compliance with market regulatory requirements such as display of the price of the product or services, issuance of purchase receipts, and product labeling, among others.

The city of Thimphu has the highest number of registered e-commerce entities with 91, followed by Chukha, Paro, with four numbers, and Sarpang, with two numbers. Mongar, Pemagatshel, Punakha, Trashigang, Tsirang, and Wangduephodrang have one registered e-commerce entity each.

Apart from the regulatory requirements, the team is also inspecting and reviewing the cancellation/refund policies of the e-commerce entities.

In March 2023, the CCAA facilitated the refund of Nu 0.49935mn to the aggrieved consumers and the repair of equipment worth Nu 0. 31550mn to a consumer. Furthermore, the business entities were also rectified and advised to comply with the CPA 2012 and CPRR 2015 in vogue.

The CCAA also directed a saw-miller based in Trashigang to facilitate the refund of Nu 0.384, 070.52mn to the individual consumers. The saw miller was found non-compliant with Natural Resources Pricing Committee (NRPC) rates for the sawn timber affixed by the NRPC.

Consumer protection is critical to ensuring that consumers are treated fairly by businesses and are not subject to fraudulent or deceptive practices. Some of the pertinent unscrupulous business practices reported to the Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority (CCAA) are price manipulation, false advertising, unethical practices, and denial of services, among others.

As mandated, the CCAA is engaged in numerous advocacy programs, market surveillance, and grievance redressal mechanisms to ensure that consumers are empowered, their rights are safeguarded, and compliance with regulatory requirements are enhanced.

Consumer disputes involve violations of the Consumer Protection Act 2012 and the Consumer Protection Rules and Regulations 2015. The violations of consumer protection law include breaches of terms and conditions, unfair or deceptive trade practices, misleading price indications, the sale of poor quality or contaminated products, and others like unethical business practices and misleading representations.

Nidup Lhamo from Thimphu