Groups Push Improved Information Sharing within ASEAN to Protect Consumers from Unsafe Products

As the nation observes the Consumer Welfare Month (CWM) this October, public interest groups urged the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to strengthen mechanisms for sharing product hazard and safety information as the region moves towards economic integration.

The Consumer Rights for Safe Food (CRSF) and the EcoWaste Coalition jointly called for improved information sharing on product recalls and product safety-related incidents in line with this year’s theme for the CWM: "Consumer Protection in the Asean Economic Community."

“As various sectors tackle the hurdles towards regional economic integration, ASEAN member states need to work double time to bolster consumer product safety regulations to protect consumers from inferior quality and unsafe products, including those sold in e-commerce, that can put consumer health at risk,” said Rene Pineda, President of CRSF, a member group of the National Consumer Affairs Council.

“In line with the consumer right to know, current mechanisms for sharing information on products that pose serious threats to health as well as to the environment should be reviewed and strengthened and be made more publicly available,” added Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

A system for more efficient notification and public disclosure procedures on hazardous and substandard products have become more important as impediments for cross-border trade are removed, especially with the emergence of on-line commerce, the groups said.

The ASEAN Committee on Consumer Protection (ACCP) launched in 2012 the website to serve as the main reference point for consumers on matters pertaining to certain banned or recalled products.

The website contains “Lists of Official Recalled/Banned Products and Voluntary Recalled/Banned Products in ASEAN” based on submissions by member states.

The effectiveness of the said website, the groups said, should be reviewed with inputs from all stakeholders to determine necessary improvements that should be introduced.

According to the ASEAN-published “Consumer Protection Digests and Case Studies: A Policy Guide,” “defective  products  impose  various  direct  and indirect  costs  on  consumers and  the  broader  community.”

“A particular concern in developed countries worldwide (and increasingly now  middle-income countries), including among ASEAN Member States, has been  the influx of low-priced manufactured goods from major exporting nations,” the report said.

“ASEAN  Member  States  are  also  increasingly  integrated  into  pan-Asian production chains, with components being sourced in the region for assembly and  exporting  to  developed  country  markets  through  a  rapidly  growing network of free trade agreements,” the report also noted.