Burma President Thein Sein approved the country’s first Consumer Protection Law in March 14, 2014 after its Parliament passed it. The law hopes will address widespread concerns about unsafe ingredients in food and beverage products on sale in the country.
The law includes 12 chapters and 31 sections that covers the rights and responsibilities of both consumers and manufacturers, and lists prohibitions for manufacturers. It sets out how a Committee for Consumer Protection will function, and describes a dispute resolution and sanctions regime.
In the absence of any law up to now protecting consumers, there have been public fears about the safety of foodstuffs in Burma. A nongovernmental Consumer Protection Association (CPA) has conducted its own testing on products, and claims to have identified poor quality imported palm oil, fish paste with high urea content and a potentially dangerous fungus in locally made potato chips and soft drinks.
The government’s Ministry of Health has a Food and Drug Administration, but the poorly resourced agency has struggled to keep watch over the large number of local and imported goods on sale in Burma.
The new law states that the Committee for Consumer Protection will include the Minister of Commerce, senior representatives of other relevant ministries, representatives of civil society and experts.
According to the law, consumers have a right to expect safe products from manufacturers, and can complain to the committee if they are not satisfied with a product. It also says consumers must not publicize concerns about a product without first having good evidence to back up their concerns, including on social media.
The law includes punishments of up to three years in jail and fines of up to 5 million kyat for manufacturers who distribute unsafe products.
Dr. Nyo Nyo Thin, a member of the Rangoon Regional Parliament, said consumers in Burma were worse off than other regional countries in terms of protections. “But the law enforcement is more essential. Punishments should be serious for manufacturers who break the law. Even in China, the maximum sentence for [breaching] consumer protection rules is a life sentence. Here, the punishment is still really weak.”
Source: The Irrawady