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Burma: Consumer Protection Law Adopted

(Mar. 21, 2014) On March 14, 2014, Burma’s Union Parliament passed a Law on Consumer Protection, the country’s first law comprehensively addressing this topic. President Thein Sein has signed the legislation. The law is divided into 12 chapters. It has provisions on the rights and responsibilities of both manufacturers and consumers. It establishes a Committee for Consumer Protection and provides for how it will operate. There are also sections on dispute resolution and on sanctions for violations. Those who distribute products that are not safe may be subject to up to three years of imprisonment and up to 5 million kyat (about US$5,000) in fines. (Kyaw Hsu Mon, Burma President Approves Consumer Protection Law, THE IRRAWADDY (Mar. 17, 2014).)

The law states that consumers have the right to safe products and to complain to the Committee if there is a problem. It adds, however, that such consumer complaints must not be made public unless they are based on solid evidence. (Id.)

The Committee for Consumer Protection will comprise the Minister of Commerce, high-level representatives of other ministries, and representatives of civil society organizations. Ba Oak Khine, the chairman of the Consumer Protection Association of Myanmar (CPA), a nongovernmental organization based in Rangoon, has said the Association would be willing to work with the Committee if asked. (Id.)

The decision to draft a law to protect consumers followed widespread concerns about the safety of food and beverages sold in Burma. These concerns arose in part due to the investigatory work of the CPA. It tested products sold in the country and found problems with the safety of palm oil, fish paste, potato chips, and soft drinks. (Id.) Khine, the organization’s chairman, said the passage of the new law was a positive step, but that enforcement might be difficult. He stated:

The Consumer Protection Law has been approved by the President now, so it’s better than nothing. … The government has been approved [sic] many laws in recent years, but we need better law enforcement rather than just approving many laws. We want the government to take action seriously about consumer protection issues. (Id.)

The bill that resulted in the Law was submitted to the legislature in September 2013. At the time, Khin Maung Lay, Director General of the Ministry of Commerce, noted that five other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) had such laws in place and said, “[t]he key point is to protect the consumers, and there are also promises [we] made to the other ASEAN countries. Meanwhile, if something goes wrong, the parties concerned seek a solution together, rather than getting punished. .. Once the law is passed, there will be effective legal enforcement.” (Myanmar Prepares to Enact Consumer Protect Law, MYANMAR BUSINESS NEWS (Sept. 22, 2013).)