Consumer Protection in ASEAN (PROTECT)
Ttile: Consumer Protection in ASEAN (PROTECT)
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Lead executing agency: Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)
Overall term: 2018 to 2022
“As consumers hold businesses to higher standards, their trust drives competition, innovation and market participation.”
Effective consumer protection is essential for creating a conducive and competitive business environment. It serves to counter fraudulent or unfair trade practices, which is critical in the face of increased cross-border and online transactions. At the same time, it helps guarantee and enforce basic consumer rights, such as safety, choice, representation and redress.
Promoting the interests and welfare of consumers is a central commitment of the ten ASEAN Member States. However, there is often limited strategic coordination of consumer protection measures in the countries; consumers and businesses are not sufficiently aware about their rights and obligations. Moreover, the pronounced heterogeneity of systems across ASEAN poses a challenge to regional integration and cooperation mechanisms across countries.
The national consumer protection systems in selected ASEAN Member States have been strengthened, with a view towards making markets work for businesses and consumers alike. This forms the basis for a dynamic as well as people-oriented ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) 2025.
The project applies a two-tier, multi-stakeholder approach by facilitating regional dialogue and cooperation, as well as fostering a “pro-consumer” culture at the national level. This is achieved through the close engagement of public and private stakeholders, as well as civil society.
Project activities are primarily guided by the ASEAN Strategic Action Plan on Consumer Protection (ASAPCP) 2016-2025. Support to Member States to bridge the implementation gap between regional initiatives and national reforms is delivered in the following areas:
Improving legal and institutional frameworks;
- Enhancing consumer access to justice
- Promoting responsible business conduct
- Encouraging consumer activism and advocacy
Aside from support tailored to specific country contexts, the project also pursues a continuous knowledge transfer among Member States in an “ASEAN helps ASEAN” approach. This is complemented by cooperation with international organisations to gain insight from existing good practices, such as with the International Consumer Protection Enforcers Network (ICPEN), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) or Consumers International. Further synergies exist by linking up with other development partners active in the ASEAN region, notably Australia, New Zealand and the United States.
Building on the networks and experiences gained within the framework of the Competition Policy and Law in ASEAN (CPL II) Project, there is a progressive regional cooperation framework on consumer protection in the ASEAN region, which is demonstrated by the following:
- An active regional dialogue takes places within the ASEAN Committee on Consumer Protection (ACCP), aligned with a clearer vision and commitments for necessary actions on consumer protection across ASEAN Member States in the medium term.
- Regional guidance and reference documents provide orientation for cross-border cooperation as well as national reform processes.
- National consumer protection systems in the ASEAN Member States are regularly assessed and improved in accordance with the ASEAN High-Level Principles on Consumer Protection (AHLPCP).
- The ACCP website provides up-to-date information about relevant policies, laws and developments related to consumer protection in the ASEAN Member States, and facilitates both consumer complaints-handling as well as product recalls.
- Insights generated from the pilot application of the ASEAN Consumer Empowerment Index are fed into advocacy and awareness-raising activities on priority consumer concerns.
In addition to results at the regional level, there are several achievements at the country level:
- All ASEAN Member States have enacted general consumer protection laws.
- The second UNCTAD peer review on consumer protection worldwide was conducted in Indonesia, underpinning concerted efforts to implement a comprehensive national strategy as well as amend the existing legislation.
- In several ASEAN countries, mechanisms for handling consumer complaints have been upgraded, among other through new hotlines in Lao PDR, and improved interaction between the responsible entities at the central and provincial levels in Viet Nam.