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Sixty-five public organizations for protection of consumer rights operate in Kazakhstan — Ministry of Trade and Intergation

Tuesday, 22 September 2020, 11:16:49

At a selector government session chaired by Prime Minister Askar Mamin, issues of consumer protection were considered. Minister of Trade and Integration Bakhyt Sultanov reported on the work carried out in this direction.

In his Address to the people of Kazakhstan, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev emphasized the importance of improving the quality of goods and services, as one of the most important aspects of the well-being of the population.

Today, the number of consumers in Kazakhstan totals 18.7 million people who make more than 6 million purchases of goods and services every day (the number of transactions in retail trade using cash registers).

This year, Kazakhstani consumers through the retail network purchased goods for 6.8 trillion tenge, and about 4 trillion tenge for services.

According to Minister of Trade and Integration Bakhyt Sultanov, the main share of trade falls on food, medicine, household goods, transactions with movable and immovable property, and recreational services.

“The state system of consumer protection includes 19 central and 17 local executive bodies. According to the Register, state bodies, together with subjects of the quasi-public sector in the field of education, health care, veterinary medicine, housing and communal services, communications, etc., provide a total of 574 services to individuals. At the same time, not a single participant in the system has a focus on the interests of the consumer. Therefore, there is a low level of consumer protection, distorted statistics and weak interest in ‘working on recurring mistakes,” Sultanov said.

Statistics show that consumer dissatisfaction remains at a consistently high level. Questions that bother consumers, in general, are repeated from year to year: housing and communal services, retail trade, medical services, and transport.

“This year, the Committee for the Protection of Consumer Rights alone has already received about 8 thousand applications, while comprehensive statistics will be formed at the end of the year. Today, collection and analysis is carried out in manual mode and there is no sufficient detail and automation to form a full-fledged picture and assess the work of government agencies,” said the minister.

A number of these problems will be resolved within the framework of the implementation of amendments to the Law "On Protection of Consumer Rights’’ enforced in July 2020. When developing the Law, international best practices were studied. A mixed model, effectively used by OECD countries, is taken as a conceptual basis. For example, in Germany, Austria, Japan and Lithuania, the state carries out smart administration, and the institutions of pre-trial settlement are engaged in the restoration of violated rights. In Russia, Germany and Lithuania, there are Interdepartmental Councils, on the site of which problematic issues in the field of consumer protection are discussed.

As Sultanov informed, a three-stage system of consideration of complaints has been introduced. The first stage provides for the seller's obligation to independently consider the consumer's claim on the "here and now" principle. The parties also have the option to involve, by mutual agreement, the subjects of pre-trial settlement of consumer disputes.

The passage of the second stage by the consumer is not a mandatory requirement, the decision on the need to send a complaint to the authorized body is made by the consumer himself. The final stage is the consumer's appeal to the court.

“Our common task is to create such conditions when the seller and the service provider will be interested in avoiding disputable situations and, if they arise, to solve them at the first stage,” Sultanov stressed.

The judiciary should also be interested in expediting dispute resolution with a pro-consumer perspective.

At the same time, the Law strengthens public control over the observance of citizens' consumer rights.

Currently, 65 public organizations in the field of consumer protection are actually operating in the country.

The Ministry will work with NGOs on the possibility of their consolidation and strengthening on a sectoral basis. This will enable the public sector to establish full-fledged cooperation with sectoral government agencies. In general, this will improve the culture of consumers and the quality of the goods and services they receive.

In addition, the Law provides for the creation of an Interdepartmental Council for the Protection of Consumer Rights, at whose meetings the results of the work of state bodies will be discussed, gaps will be identified and appropriate decisions will be made.

The composition and position of the Council are under consideration by the government.

Also, the ministry will annually submit to the government an analytical report on the current situation in the field of consumer protection.

The data collected through the created Unified Information System will be the basis for the preparation of annual reports, a quick and high-quality solution to the above problems.

It will allow you to structure and track complaints by industry, subject of dispute, subjects of consideration, etc., linking consumers, business and government agencies into a single ecosystem. Specialized non-governmental organizations will also become full participants and beneficiaries of the system.

Pilot testing of the system with the voluntary participation of business entities is planned for October this year in Nur-Sultan.

“We also offer a number of innovations that will raise the system of consumer protection in Kazakhstan to a fundamentally new level. First, consider the possibility of uniting all public consumer organizations to create a National Consumer Association, with a widely branched system of representative offices in the regions,” said the minister.

Second, to create an ombudsman institution on the basis of non-governmental organizations.

Third, to introduce a mandatory requirement in the development of regulatory legal acts to analyze the regulatory impact on the interests of consumers and coordinate with the authorized body.

Fourth, to include public associations in the field of consumer rights protection in the consultative and advisory bodies under the ministries and akimats.

Fifth, to introduce the performance assessment indicator of government agencies, local executive bodies and quasi-government organizations, the level of satisfaction and confidence in their work on the part of consumers.

Sixth, to adopt a set of Voluntary Business Practices Rules and norms in model contracts for public and private organizations, taking into account the interests and rights of consumers in full.

Seventh, launch a course of free online lectures for consumers and businesses on consumer protection tools.

In turn, the Supreme Judge Aslan Tukiyev informed that the Supreme Court took part in the development of the latest legislative changes.

“We positively perceive the possibility of paying compensation for moral harm caused to the consumer without going to court, in general, the judicial system is ready to work in accordance with the new procedure for resolving consumer disputes,” Tukiyev said.

For eight months of this year, the courts received about 677 claims for the protection of consumer rights. 385 of them were considered, and 306 lawsuits were considered in favor of the plaintiff. Among them, amicable agreements were concluded on 94 applications.

“These are good indicators, but not without roughness. To bring the position closer together, we have scheduled a meeting this week with the participation of the leadership of the Supreme Court, the ministry and stakeholders. In addition, the Supreme Court supports the practice of upholding the rights of an indefinite circle of consumers for systemic violations. The so-called practice of class action lawsuits of the Armed Forces will develop and be supported in spite of the fact that there is no sufficient legislative regulation,” Tukiyev noted.

Chair of the Board of the Atameken National Chamber of Entrepreneurs Ablay Myrzakhmetov noted that Atameken proposes to focus on issues of increasing the culture of consumption, legal literacy of the population to defend their rights, which will also stimulate producers.

“It is necessary to carry out systematic and daily explanatory work, informing consumers about their rights and obligations. We need simple algorithms for the implementation of consumer rights and an effective channel of communication between business, consumers and the government agency, by strengthening the role of the authorized body. It is also necessary to increase the efficiency of the work of non-commercial organizations, to introduce the institute of accelerated legal proceedings in the field of violation of consumer rights,” Myrzakhmetov said.

Chair of the Coalition on Consumer Rights Protection Murat Abenov noted that the law "On Amendments and Additions to the Legislative Acts of the Republic of Kazakhstan on Consumer Rights Protection" adopted June 25, 2020, made it possible to solve a number of problems, including improving the efficiency of the functions of public associations. Accuracy was introduced in such issues as interaction with government agencies and business self-regulation.

“The most important thing is that the state has taken control of these issues and is ready to solve them jointly with public organizations. Previously, these issues were not considered at this level. We believe that in the near future the rights of consumers will be protected qualitatively,” Abenov noted.

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