While the Myanmar Consumer Protection Law 2014 (CPL) was enacted over three years ago, its enforcement is starting to pick up in 2017 with almost 50 cases reported to the Consumer Protection Central Committee (Central Committee) in the last year. Another enforcement agency, the Food and Drug Administration Department (FDA) also recently announced its intention to actively commence investigations and unannounced reviews of compliance with food labelling provisions, which include fines or even imprisonment for repeat offenders.
Further, an active non-Government organisation, Myanmar Consumers Union (MCU), has recently launched a website and mobile application with the assistance of USAID. The website and application provide a simple method for processing consumer complaints in either Myanmar or English languages. MCU then submits the complaint information to the Central Committee where it considers relevant.
While there is still significant capacity building ahead for the institutions tasked with enforcing the CPL, the result of these recent developments is that Myanmar now has an effective and potentially extremely active consumer protection regime that businesses must consciously and proactively comply with.
The law implements both consumer safety standards for the manufacture of goods, and also consumer protection measures relating to the advertising and promotion of goods and services. In particular, businesses should be aware that consumers have the right to:
- Purchase safe goods and services
- Rely on information that the manufacturer provides on the label, in particular in relation to ingredients, health standards, or date of production
- Receive goods or services to the value, quality, volume, style etc. purchased
- Receive goods or services on the basis of the terms or conditions stated by the manufacturer
- Access complete and correct information about goods or services being purchased
- Rely on the pricing (especially promotional) and content information contained in advertising produced by a manufacturer or supplier (essentially provisions against false and misleading advertising)
Businesses should also be aware that there is an express prohibition against disparaging any other goods or services, either directly or indirectly.
Under the CPL, depending on their nature and severity breaches may result in:
- Warnings for minor initial offences
- Administrative actions such as compensation, prohibition of products, product recalls, or licence revocation where necessary
- For more serious or repeat offences, fines up to MMK 5 million (approximately USD 3,600)
- Again for serious or repeat offences, imprisonment up to three years
Consumers who are impacted by breaches of the CPL are also expressly entitled to take civil action against the offender.
Administrative enforcement activity will be taken by the Central Committee, or at a State/Region, District or Township level the Dispute Settlement Committees (which have been established by the Central Committee). We understand that there have already been almost 50 complaints lodged with the Central Committee. We understand that the Central Committee is currently working on developing an online complaint mechanism for consumers, however, there is also the MCU website and mobile application available for consumer applications as discussed above.
The FDA also has some remit for consumer affairs, and has been taking an increasingly aggressive stance against non-compliance by businesses with labelling requirements for food, cosmetics and drug products.
Next steps for business
Enforcement activity under the CPL is now a real issue for both local Myanmar manufacturers and service operators, and also for international consumer goods producers. We recommend that all businesses implement review processes now to ensure that their goods and services are advertised and sold in compliance with the requirements of the CPL. While we assume that initial actions are likely to involve warnings or introductory fines, there are no specific thresholds for the severity of enforcement activity to guide businesses in relation to possible penalties. As such, compliance should be a key priority of any goods or service business either in, or importing to, Myanmar.