The Ministry of Industry and Commerce has issued new regulations to support the formation and operation of consumer protection associations in Laos.
The Lao Law on Consumer Protection, passed by the National Assembly of Lao PDR in June 2010, and promulgated by the country’s President in September 2010, contains provisions for the formation of consumer protection associations.
Growing public concern over negligence or unethical behavior in the marketplace by some businesses provided the background for the passing of the law, with relevant ministries developing implementing regulations, such as the decree on labeling domestic and imported goods.
The new regulations endorsed by Minister of Industry and Commerce, Mrs. Khemmani Pholsena on 30 July, provide additional guidelines on how consumer protection associations can be formed.
According to the regulations, the consumer protection association is a non-profit association representing consumers with a responsibility and duty to provide support and professional guidance in protecting their interests.
The association may be made up of three Lao citizens of legal age with relevant qualifications, according to the regulations. The group may submit their proposal to form the association to represent and protect consumers in disputes with goods and services providers.
District-level associations will have a minimum of ten members, while provincial associations should have 15 members, and national-level associations should have at least 20 members.
The association is expected to finance itself but has the right to raise funds from local and international donors to ensure it has enough resources to operate effectively.
Lao citizens regularly take to social media to express their outrage and concern over retailers who sell fraudulent products, tamper with weights and measurements, or engage in price gouging.
The consumer protection association should act as a means of not only expressing complaints but ensuring wrongdoers are brought to justice.