Electronics firms ignore consumer rights
HCM CITY (Biz Hub) — With a population of more than 90 million, Viet Nam is an attractive market for domestic and foreign producers and distributors of electronic products, but many companies continue to ignore consumer rights’ laws, according to the Ministry of Industry and Trade.
Speaking at a seminar on protecting consumers’ rights in the electronics sector in HCM City yesterday, Ho Tung Bach of the Ministry’s Domestic Market Department, said with increasing income, demand for electronic products had increased strongly in recent years.
According to GFK, a market research company, Vietnamese consumers spent a total of nearly VND35 trillion (US$1.64 billion) for electronic products in the first half of the year, a year-on-year increase of 27.5 per cent, he said.
Forty retail electronics stores were established from early 2013 to June this year, Bach said.
“This proved that the Viet Nam’s electronics market is a fertile land for producers and distributors of electronics,” he said.
In the last two years, electronics firms had expanded their distribution networks from urban to rural areas to increase their market share, he said, noting that there was fierce competition among electronics firms, not only in terms of prices but also in services.
With diverse products, distribution methods and suppliers, the electronics market in Viet Nam had brought more choices for customers and met their demand, he said at a seminar organised by the ministry and LG Electronics Viet Nam.
But along with an increase in demand for electronics products, violations of the law on protection of consumer rights in the electronics sector had also increased, the seminar heard.
Cao Xuan Quang, head of the Viet Nam Competition Authority’s Consumer Protection Division, said violations of consumer rights in the electronics sector were mainly about guarantees, insufficient information to customers, dubious promotion programmes and exaggerated advertising.
For instance, many businesses launched promotions with discounts of 50 per cent, but in reality the sale prices after discount were still higher than market prices, he said.
In another case, electronics stores said they would offer gifts worth VND2 million ($94.18) for customers who buy TVs, but the value of the gifts were not that high, just about VND200,000-300,000 ($9.5-14.3), he said.
As for guarantees according to the law on protection of consumers’ rights, businesses must exchange the product or refund customers if the company cannot repair the product after three consecutive attempts during the warranty period.
In addition, businesses must bear the cost for transporting the products during the warranty period and provide customers another product for temporary use while it is being repaired.
“However, few electronics businesses have followed these regulations,” he said.
He blamed the situation on a lack of understanding about regulations on protection of consumers’ rights among businesses.
“Some understand, but they deliberately violate the law,” said Nguyen Phuong Nam, deputy head of the Viet Nam Competition Authority, adding that “such cases must be strictly dealt with”.
“On the other hand, Vietnamese customers are not fully aware of their basic rights, and they do not know where to complain or ask for compensation when their rights are violated,” he said.
Pham Thi Viet Thu, deputy chairwoman of the Consumers’ Rights Protection Association of HCM City, said many consumers were afraid of complaints, so they ignore them.
Thus, companies ignored their responsibilities to obey regulations on protection of consumers’ rights, she said.
Legal documents clearly stipulate that consumers have eight basic rights, including safety, information, choice, complaints and compensation.
In the past three years, the Viet Nam Competition Authority had co-operated with localities to organise more than 500 workshops nationwide to raise awareness about consumers’ rights among people, Nam said.
Awareness about consumers’ rights had increased but not as expected, he said.
His agency would continue work to help Vietnamese consumers understand more about their rights.
“It is time for large electronics producers to train and instruct their sale agents about the importance of conducting accurate advertising as well as provide customers with sufficient information about products that customers intend to purchase,” Nam said. — VNS