Source: Vientiane Times
Action has been and will continue to be taken to prevent the sale of out-of-date and contaminated foods as well as the provision of unfair services that continue to surface, a minister told the National Assembly (NA) recently.
Minister of Industry and Commerce, Ms Khemmani Pholsena, warned those involved that they would face penalties in line with the relevant laws as she detailed measures to address the issues that continue to be reported.
Expired food items worth more than 324.2 million kip were confiscated and destroyed in the provinces of Luang Namtha, Xieng Khuang, Khammuan, Vientiane and Saravan in the 2015-16 fiscal year, the minister told the Assembly’s ongoing ordinary session.
She was responding to questions raised by members of the NA, who expressed concerns over reports suggesting that expired and contaminated foods were still being sold in markets throughout the country along with fake goods.
In the 2014-15 fiscal year, out-of-date food items with a sale value of as much as 2.4 billion kip was confiscated and destroyed. Officials also seized a number of imitation silk skirts (sinh) imported from China, the minister said.
Ms Khemmani said her officials, in collaboration with officials from the health, agriculture and forestry sectors, regularly carry out inspections in markets, shops and shopping malls to prevent contaminated, expired or fake foods from being sold.
They also inspect medical and beauty salons and other services to ensure the safety of services offered to members of the public, while also preventing exaggerated advertisements.
At the end of 2015, the ministry issued a decision instructing traders and sellers to attach Lao language stickers to all products sold in Laos to provide information such as nutrition facts, the origin of the product, date of production, and expiry date.
To enable members of the public to participate in the fight against such issues, the ministry set up telephone hotline number 1510 on June 7, 2016, which is now operational and allows consumers to speak out about the issues they are facing.
At least 62 calls have been made through the hotline so far. There were complaints about out-of-date food that was still on sale, as well as unreasonably high electricity, public transport, telephone and internet charges, Ms Khemmani said.
“Some petitions have been addressed, while solutions are being sought concerning the other requests,” she added.
The minister warned traders selling items that do not carry Lao language informational stickers that they will be fined and their goods confiscated.
She promised to continue to work closely with the relevant sectors to carry out regular inspections at markets and other service venues to address the issues.
The ministry, Ms Khemmani said, will push for the establishment of a consumer protection association to help the ministry keep a close watch on issues such as contaminated or expired goods and other matters that affect consumer s.
She pledged to work more closely with the relevant sectors to set up a joint coordinating mechanism to protect all consumers and address their petitions as well as disputes between consumers and traders or service providers.
It is anticipated that the joint coordinating mechanism would assist in arriving at more effective and long term solutions for all concerned.
Ms Khemmani touched on the need to formulate additional regulations to fully translate the Law on Consumer Protection into detail to better protect consumers.