Regulatory body of the Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection (DNCRP) has been continuously monitoring different markets across Bangladesh. Meanwhile, its efforts to enforce regulations on traders was not very successful in the last decade.
The Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection embarked on its journey in 2009 with an aim to protect the people from deceiving business practices. Since the beginning, the directorate has been carrying out market monitoring and regulation on a regular basis.
The directorate pays the victim 25 per cent of the fine after their complaints against a trader are identified.
Nowadays, the traders are committing multiple types of consumer fraud, such as not displaying the price-list of goods and services, overcharging consumers, trading adulterated goods, and selling products without proper packaging.
Complaints filed by the customers revealed that traders are increasingly engaging in consumer fraud, which in turn has raised questions about the state of consumer rights protection in the country – according to the data by the directorate.
Data showed by the Business Standard, Tk130,379,180 fines were charged over 22,286 complaints for not using packaging. 16,934 complaints have been filed for not showing a goods price list. Tk40,840,050 in fines were charged.
Tk51,262,980 in fines over 15,836 complaints were filed for overcharging. Tk6,570,700 in fines over 686 complaints were filed for selling adulterated goods. Tk1,983,750 in fines were charged over 535 complaints for not showing services price list.
Sources from the directorate say it has been carrying out drives and monitoring markets at divisional, district and upazila levels throughout the country on a regular basis, and the number of traders getting caught after defrauding consumers have been rising rapidly.
The directorate data showed nearly 40,000 people took legal action after becoming victims of consumer fraud in the last decade, and 95 per cent such incidents occurred in the last five years.
Authorities noted that most victims do not seek legal support from the Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection, if even getting defrauded by traders frequently, a majority of consumers are not taking legal action
Consumers Association of Bangladesh’s (CAB) Vice-President SM Nazer Hossain said, “The number of culprits getting caught is going up in tandem with the number of drives conducted in different markets.
“Such a trend indicates that the punishments handed down to these traders were unable to raise awareness among them, or initiate a change in their behaviour.”
Mentioning the onion price hikes last year, Hossain said, “We all know what happened after the Indian government halted onion exports to Bangladesh on two occasions. The traders are now defrauding consumers on the rice prices. There is no solution to this predicament.”
Bangladesh Shop Owners Association President Md Helal Uddin said, when a crisis unfolds centring a particular product, the Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection fails to regulate the market properly. This in turn gives some traders the opportunity to commit crimes.”
But the authorities stated the number of victims seeking legal action is too low, as more and more traders are getting caught red handed at the markets for committing consumer fraud.
During this period, 97,309 businesses have been punished for their engagement in consumer fraud.
According to the directorate, the number of traders engaging in deceptive business practices have skyrocketed in the last four years. In the 2016-17 fiscal year, 9,306 businesses were punished for fraud, but 22,244 businesses received punishment in the FY 2019-20.
The data indicates that the number of offending traders has more than doubled since the last four years.