Sri Lanka began work to upgrade its consumer protection regime on 8 January with the launch of a five day long national deliberations in Colombo-and the way forward is Sri Lanka to be in par with the other 100 countries that follow UN Guidelines on Consumer Protection (UNGCP).
“For the first time in the history of Sri Lanka’s consumer well-being sphere we are commencing our journey towards the UN Guidelines on Consumer Protection (UNGCP) based on the partnership of two apex Lankan institutions-the UNIDO in Colombo and the Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA) under the Ministry of Industry and Commerce” said the Minister of Industry and Commerce of Sri Lanka in his message on 8 January. Minister Bathiudeen’s message delivered by Additional Secretary MA Thajudeen, was aimed at the launch event of first Sri Lanka Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) Deliberations towards UN Guidelines on Consumer Protection. Joining the 8 January session were UN Resident Coordinator in Sri Lanka Una McCauley, Chairman of CAA Hasitha Tillekeratne, Head of UNIDO Colombo Focal Point Nawaz Rajabdeen, Senior Advisor to Minister Bathiudeen Ms Himali Jinadasa, visiting Senior Consultant for Regulatory Reform of UNIDO Ms Delia Rodrigo and representatives from 30 Sri Lankan regulatory agencies.
“This is the first time that the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, the CAA and even Sri Lanka itself is undertaking such an in-depth review of safeguards of consumption of products, services and compliance at national level which is a stepping stone for harmonization with dynamic global standards respected by 100 countries. Once these Colombo deliberations are concluded and reform work begins Sri Lanka too will become part of this huge collective of countries that successfully sourced from UNGCP to design their national consumer wellbeing policy. Our consumer protection framework at present is largely dependent on legislations such as our Consumer Affairs Authority Act which need revising. While these Acts introduced the much needed basic consumer safeguard framework to Sri Lanka they do not appear to be satisfactory anymore in the face of huge changes such as online purchases, new cross border consumption patterns including consumption of content such as data, new consumer activism that looks for remedies on latest merchandise that was previously unheard of or unknown such as streaming or stored online digital content.”
“The large number of people present here shows that this event is a very important moment for Sri Lanka. Sometimes regulations are outdated, weak or non-existent and periodically they need to be examined to correct them and their quality” said UN Resident Coordinator McCauley, and added: “SDGs are a really ambitious set of goals which the UN has committed itself to. Sri Lanka was one of the first countries that supported SDGs in 2015 at the General Assembly and is a leading country in trying to define what sustainability means for development, and regulations necessarily have to be a part of the development framework. Regulations have to be coherent if Sri Lanka to achieve sustainable development -and they not only help to achieve your goals but even ambitious global-goals. Systematic, participatory and evidence based transparent approaches are required for regulatory authorities to make informed decisions.”
Visiting Consultant Ms Rodrigo shall be personally conducting in-depth daily RIA preparatory sessions for CAA officials and representatives from Lankan regulatory agencies till 12 January.
At present 70% of purchases in developed countries are made online. Rapidly growing South Asian economies too are moving in the same direction. For example, recent research shows that online shoppers in India have grown eight-fold since 2013 and 50% of Indian urban internet users now shop online.