CUTS IN MEDIA-November 2008
Evidence first defense against unfair
firms: consumer group
Civil society push for trade justice
Competition panel hangs fire
bags India Power Award
Livemint, November 26, 2008
The finance minister has used the RBI as a wing of his ministry and even junior officials in the ministry have been dictating instructions to the central bank at various levels
There could not have been a better performance review of the Prime Minister and the finance minister. (“Policy trap”, Mint, 24 November). While you have brought out the salient aspects of poor governance, one issue that has been missed in your edit is the massive loan write-off by public sector banks. Mint has published detailed stories on this issue but any review of the government’s policies should comment on the callous handling of bank finances. The finance minister has used the Reserve Bank of India as a wing of his ministry and even junior officials in the ministry have been dictating instructions to the central bank at various levels.
This is to bring to your notice the approach of extreme caution being adopted by big business in India. Large business houses have indulged in knee-jerk reactions to the financial meltdown in anticipation of a recession in demand and credit. A freeze on new employment and business expansion seems imminent.
Our submission is that big business is underestimating the strength of the Indian economy—its size and diversity—which can provide both the necessary demand and supply stimulus for growth. All that is needed is that all economic agents—the government, consumers, investors and entrepreneurs—maintain a positive attitude in going about business as usual.
Therefore, the current freeze being advocated is definitely the wrong way to go about things. The Indian economy is certainly capable of manufacturing prosperity and breeze through the global financial meltdown and the ensuing economic crisis at only a slightly reduced rate of economic growth of 6-7% per annum. But for that to be possible, business will have to continue spending, earning and employing without any unusual inhibitions.
However, the efforts of big business alone might not be sufficient for ensuring that India coasts through the global meltdown. There is a need for support from all the other economic actors: government, consumers, investors and depositors.
For the government, this is the time to plan and execute infrastructure projects and employment programmes which can generate jobs and enhance productivity.
Investors need to not only keep themselves invested in firms with sound fundamentals but also need to pick up undervalued blue chips offered by the depressed stock market.
Consumers need to do their job too—consume with the usual gusto and ensure that the demand outlook for business remains bright. Depositors also need to be proactive in checking rumour-mongering about bank failures and play an active part in the formation of reliable information networks.
Such actions by these actors will further national interest. A stronger economy will further everybody’s interest—the saying, “united we stand, divided we fall”, has never been more relevant.
The demons are in the mind; wake up every day expecting the future to be bright and sunny and invariably you will find your belief to be vindicated.
—Pradeep S. Mehta & Siddhartha Mitra
I consider Dawood Ibrahim, the most wanted Indian criminal, an extension of people such as Shakil. (“A disturbing encounter”, Mint, 20 November). They conveniently find a safe haven in Dubai while making frequent trips to democracies such as India. It is a case of best of both worlds.
This news item can also be viewed at: http://www.livemint.com/
Thanh Nien Daily, Vietnam, November 24, 2008
Local buyers need to collect evidence and officially report their complaints if they want to challenge businesses that rip people off, said consumer advocates.
General secretary of the Vietnam Standards and Consumers Association Do Gia Phan said local consumers have rights, they’re just unaware of them.
The group’s deputy chairman Ho Tat Thang said his association can file lawsuits against companies that employ unfair practices.
But he said greedy and irresponsible traders are rarely brought to court because consumers who complain about getting cheated fail to provide even the simplest of evidence, such as a receipt.
He said Vietnam had laws that could force firms to compensate consumers they swindle by overcharging, mislabeling or selling counterfeit goods.
But he said the association couldn’t spend time chasing lawsuits without evidence.
An August survey by the association showed that only 41 percent of consumers in 10 cities and provinces were fully aware of their rights while half believed it was the job of the government or watchdog organizations to make sure their rights were protected.
Thang said the association had settled about 70 to 80 percent of the 1,000 official complaints filed with it last year out of court.
The number sounds good, but when considering Vietnam’s 85- million plus population, the fact is that most consumers simply don’t report being ripped off.
Riding the rip-off wave
The Ministry of Science and Technology reported in September that over 30 gasoline stations in the country had been caught overcharging for fuel or selling adulterated gas mixed with anything from kerosene and water to mud and booze.
Many had rigged their scales to show higher amounts than had been dispensed.
But commercial fraud does not end there.
The ministry also said that over 93 percent of stylized crash-helmets in the domestic market were unsafe for motorcyclists.
All this on top of the fact that market control agencies have blamed kidney stone cases in several Vietnamese children on melamine-tainted milk.
Thang said unfair trade practices were rife throughout nearly all sectors in Vietnam.
The association estimated the average consumer lost between 8 to 10 percent of the value of their purchases so far this year due to unfair practices.
The number is a significant jump from the 5 percent recorded in 2006 when a previous group of gas stations had been caught overcharging.
“No group of consumers has ever been hurt by unfair trade practices as much as Vietnamese customers have been recently,” said former general director of Competition Administration Department Dinh Thi My Loan.
George Cheriyan, director of the India-based non-profit organization Consumer Unity & Trust Society International, said Vietnam should learn from India, which effectively enforces its Consumer Protection Act and National Consumer Disputes Redress Commission through special forums akin to special courts.
Loan said local consumers should be protected by similar special courts in Vietnam, arguing that special labor and businesses courts already settle specific disputes here.
Vietnamese legislators have said a new consumer protection law, slated for 2010 or 2011, is being drafted.
This news item can also be viewed at: http://www.thanhniennews.com/
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