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Consumers are worst victim of cheating
He moved from
one pharmacy to another for a rare medicine badly needed for his ailing
father. Azad finally found the medicine at a well-known drug store. He
hurried back to hospital. His high spirit faded after the surgeons said
they could not use the medicine because its use date had expired long
ago. The man returned to the store only to be told that it has no other
sample of the drug. The storekeeper shocked Azad by refusing to take back
the date-expired drug either.
medicines, foods and beverage is too common in Bangladesh and this goes
unbridled and often unprotested because of the government's too week mechanisms
to regulate the market and bring the perpetrators to book.
Institute of Public Health, a government organisation, recently conducted
a survey on medicines available in the market and found 70 percent of
them of poor quality. Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB) also carried
out a survey on it and found huge date-expired medicines being sold in
the market. It also detected that some medicines have reprinted and faked
expiry dates on their packets.
Sakera Rahman works in a private firm, where her colleagues regard her
as a woman ready to fight for civic rights. One day she bought a shampoo
from the city's New Market and asked the sales assistant to give her cash
memo. The shopkeeper refused to give. While using the shampoo, Sakera
found it fake. The next day she returned to the shop, but the shopkeeper
flatly told her that the shampoo was not bought from his shop.
The CAB survey conducted during August-September 2002, detected that 76
percent biscuits, 51 brands of jam-jelly and almost all brands of ghee
are significantly inferior as per the BSTI set standard. It also revealed
that most products have no manufacturing and expiry dates and price tags.
And even there is no mention about the ingredients used in products. Talking
about the quality of goods sold in Bangladesh market, a BSTI official
said, "We are consuming palm oil fat in condensed milk and its food
value is very low. There are even condensed milk in the market, which
has no milk ingredients and nutrition value." He also said that most
people think the used bottles of mineral water cannot be reused because
of re-fixation of caps. But a group of dishonest businessmen have invented
the techniques of re-fixing caps. First, they fill the bottles with unsafe
water and then heat the cap and re-fix it to the bottle.
Consumers are provided not only low quality goods. There is another hazard
they have to face unusual price hike. This is also violation of consumer
rights. Another survey says the living standard rose by 8.52 percent in
2002 although the income level of the people remained almost the same.
Economist Prof. Muzaffer Ahmad said, "In other countries, there are
many options for the consumers. We don't have that kind of luxury in our
country. If the price of a particular item marks a rise on the international
market, we need to look for substitutes instead of hiking the price locally.
It's a violation of consumers right to raise the prices of essential commodities
beyond the buying capacity of the commoners." Prof. Muzaffar said
that the farmers would be benefited little with the increased price because
the prices of agri-inputs also increased simultaneously. "We have
to consider the income level of our own country. We can't give examples
of our neighbouring countries like India and Pakistan because their income
levels are higher than ours," he told the News Network correspondent.
The present scenario of consumer rights in Bangladesh is not encouraging.
Under public pressure, the government moved to formulate a law in this
regard nearly a decade ago. But the proposed law, "Consumer Protection
Act," is still a draft and nothing else. To elicit suggestions and
recommendations for improvement or modification of the draft law, a two-day
international workshop on "Consumer Rights in Bangladesh" was
held on 12-13 January. Organised by the Ministry of Commerce, the workshop
was addressed by experts from home and abroad, including India, Malaysia
and Hong Kong.
A good number of recommendations came from different experts and the audience
as well. The major recommendations included bringing public and private
educational institutions under the purview of law and minimising disparity
in education in rural and urban areas. The experts also suggested avoiding
incomplete description of goods and false promises in commercials, development
of a national food safety policy and taking steps for the training of
paramedics and ensuring food safety apart from modifying the rules, regulations
and ordinances on food quality control.