Sri Lankans should adopt a simpler lifestyle to beat the rising cost of living which has become a burden to consumers, according to Sarath Wijesinghe, former Chairman, Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA) of Sri Lanka and the present Sri Lankan Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates.
He gave this advice while making the keynote address at the World Consumer Rights Day Forum jointly organized by the Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka (IPS) and the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry Sri Lanka held in Colombo last week.
He noted that the average consumer doesn’t make a fuss when spending on such comparatively non-essentials like mobile phones. “The major expenditure of a family today is for the mobile phone and tuition fees. When the price of bread goes up by Rs. 5, there is lot of commotion but when the price of the telephone bill goes up by Rs. 50, there is no resistance,” he said.
He said that the consumer is the king and kingmaker in some parts of the globe but not in Sri Lanka, saying: “People say the consumer is powerful and he is the king and kingmaker. Traders say the consumer is always right. It may be so in other parts of the world, but not necessarily in Sri Lanka.”
He said that the consumer in Sri Lanka is expected to be protected by the Consumer Affairs Authority and the other regulatory bodies. Thus, embodying all the other laws and regulations the Consumer Affairs Act of No 9 came into operation in 2003 and said that this brought in changes for consumerism by transforming the concept of price control to the practice of control of consumer items by regulatory procedure.
Mr Wijesinghe said the Act gives powers to the CAA to regulate traders, industries, businesses and professions by way of regulatory powers.
He said the main objectives of the authority are to protect consumers against making of goods or provision of services which are hazardous to life and property, to protect consumers against unfair trade practices, to provide adequate access to goods and services and to seek redress against unfair trade practices.
He said that while performing all these activities, the main theme and the expectation of the Act is to encourage the consumer to organize themselves in the promotion of better standards on consumerism.
Yet it transpired at this forum despite many years of the CAA the formation of consumer associations hasn’t been successful in Sri Lanka.