HA NOI, 11 December 2014 – The inaugural ASEAN Consumer Protection Conference was convened from 8-9 December in Ha Noi, Viet Nam. Consumer protection agencies from the ASEAN Members States, Australia, Japan, Republic of Korea, consumer associations, international organisations and academicians attended the conference.

The gathering provided a platform to discuss and exchange several consumer protection issues, law and policy developments and experiences within and outside the region. A wide range of topics such as consumer product safety, e-commerce, consumer redress mechanisms, and financial transactions were deliberated. The discussions were based on the outcomes or findings emanating from the ‘Consumer Protection Digests and Case Studies: A Policy Guide (Volume 1)’, which aims to advocate for consumer issues and possible solutions for policy makers.

In her remarks as the Chair of the ASEAN Committee on Consumer Protection (ACCP), Ms. Pg Hajah Rosnah Pg Hj Damit stated that 9 out of 10 ASEAN Member States (AMS) have consumer protection laws in place, with Myanmar having recently enacted its consumer protection law on 14 March. However, significant challenges such as the lack of awareness in consumer rights leading to the lack of consumer trust in online purchasing, the need to enhance the capacity of consumer agencies in case handling, the lack of adequate redress mechanisms and differences in the regulatory framework amongst AMS still remain.

Further initiatives to strengthen cooperation amongst AMS to facilitate information exchange towards gradually building a convergence in their consumer protection laws and policies were raised. In addition, incorporating provisions requiring suppliers to inform regulators when exercising voluntary recalls and developing a more effective means for consumers to seek redress over faulty or defective products are some of the recommendations that emanated from the discussions and will feed into the development of the post-2015 ASEAN Consumer Protection Action Plan.

To keep in tune with the growing population, changes in consumer behaviour and rising purchasing power, consumer protection becomes an important driver of economic growth. There is a need to instill consumer empowerment by educating consumers with their rights and obligations. At the same time, there is a need to strengthen interactions amongst competition policy and consumer protection law enforcements given their linkages.

Hosted by the Vietnam Competition Agency, the conference is part of the project “Supporting Research and Dialogue in Consumer Protection in ASEAN”, supported by the ASEAN – Australia Development Cooperation Program (AADCP) Phase II. A second ASEAN Consumer Protection Conference will take place in Bangkok, Thailand at the end of 2015.