On June 20, 2023, the National Assembly passed the Law on the Protection of Consumer Rights. This is an important law project with an impact on many industries and fields.
This Law is built on the principle of inheriting, promoting, and improving regulations that are still relevant to reality in the Law on Protection of Consumer Rights promulgated in 2010; amending and supplementing unclear, inadequate, and inconsistent regulations on the principle of constitutionality, legitimacy, and uniformity in the system of legal documents. The law will take effect from July 1, 2024.
Compared with the Consumer Rights Protection Law promulgated in 2010, the Consumer Rights Protection Law 2023 has a number of new regulations, specifically as follows:
The new law has more applicable subjects, specifically:
- social and political organizations;
- social organizations including socio-political-professional organizations, social organizations;
- socio-professional organizations.
For social organizations, the Law clearly separates social organizations engaged in protecting consumer interests including social organizations with principles and purposes of participating in protecting consumer interests (commonly known as Vietnam Consumer Protection Associations) and other social organizations involved in protecting consumer interests. Social organizations participating in the protection of consumer interests are assigned by the State to perform a number of tasks on protecting consumer interests and are supported by the State in accordance with the law on the state budget.
Particularly for social organizations with principles and purposes of participating in the protection of consumer interests, the Law stipulates a specific clause on activities assigned by competent state management agencies to perform. The above specific and clear regulations will create a specific basis for the Vietnam Consumer Protection Associations to propose state management agencies to assign tasks and allocate budgets to perform assigned tasks for Associations.
In order to promptly regulate transactions with cross-border content, especially those arising in cyberspace, the new Law has adds that the applicable subjects are foreign agencies, organizations, and individuals related to consumer protection. To regulate this new object, the Additional Law provides for international cooperation in consumer protection, which clearly defines the principles and scope of international cooperation.
Identifying new subjects
The supplementary law clarifies the concept of a number of new entities, including:
- Consumers: In inheriting the concept of consumer according to the Law promulgated in 2010, the new Law adds the criteria “no commercial purposes” to clearly identify consumers, creating a unified basis in the consumer identification process. Accordingly, as long as the purpose of purchase and use is related to commercial purposes, the relevant entity will not be considered a consumer under the provisions of the New Law.
- Influencers: Before the reality of artists and celebrities who regularly advertise and introduce products, goods, and services, the Law on Supplementing Influencers created a basis for the identification of the concept and responsibilities of influencers in protecting the interests of consumers.
- Vulnerable consumers: in order to protect the interests of a group of consumers with specific factors, more vulnerable than other groups of consumers in the transaction process, the new Law identifies 07 groups of consumers. vulnerable users, along with that, specifying specific responsibilities of business organizations and individuals in protecting the interests of vulnerable consumer groups.
- Organizations and individuals doing business in cyberspace: Before many problems arise and negatively affect the interests of consumers in online transactions, the Law clearly defines organizations and individuals doing business in cyberspace, including organizations and individuals trading in products, goods, and services through an information system set up by themselves or through a digital platform and the organization that sets up and operates intermediary digital platform. For each of the above subjects, the Law has detailed regulations on responsibilities to ensure tight binding of the responsibilities of these entities in the process of performing transactions with consumers.
- Multi-level selling organizations and individuals participating in multi-level selling: The new law adds the group of subjects related to multi-level selling activities as above. Along with that, the Law has specific provisions to bind the responsibilities of this group of subjects in protecting the interests of consumers when participating in multi-level selling.
Rights and Obligations of Consumers
In order to ensure and enhance the role and position of consumers in new consumption trends, the Law adds some new rights for consumers such as:
- the right to be facilitated to choose a healthy and sustainable consumption environment;
- the right to request organization or negotiation to resolve arising disputes.
Along with that, in order to balance the rights and obligations of consumers, the Law adds a number of obligations such as:
- compliance with regulations on inspection, environmental protection, and sustainable consumption in accordance with the law;
- responsible for providing inaccurate or incomplete information related to transactions between consumers and business organizations and individuals in accordance with the law.
Sustainable production and consumption
In order to promptly meet the practical requirements, and clearly demonstrate the role of consumers in new consumption trends, the new Law adds new regulations on sustainable production and consumption. Accordingly, the Law supplements the concept of sustainable consumption, stipulates activities to promote sustainable production and consumption, and stipulates the responsibilities of ministries, ministerial-level agencies, and People’s Committees at all levels in promoting sustainable production and consumption.
Protecting the rights of vulnerable consumers
Protecting the interests of vulnerable consumers is a new regulation, that clearly demonstrates the humane guidelines and policies of the State and the Government in comprehensively protecting the legitimate interests of the people. The law clearly identifies vulnerable consumer groups, including:
- the elderly;
- People with disabilities;
- ethnic minorities;
- people living in ethnic minorities and mountainous areas, islands, areas with difficult socio-economic conditions, areas with extremely difficult socio-economic conditions as prescribed by law;
- women who are pregnant or nursing a child under 36 months old;
- people suffering from serious diseases and members of poor households as prescribed by law.
In order to strengthen the protection of vulnerable consumer interests, the Law stipulates a number of specific responsibilities of business organizations and individuals, notably the responsibility to apply a mechanism to settle complaints and disputes and comply with the provisions of the law appropriate to each vulnerable consumer.
The Law adds a number of prohibited acts, including:
- prohibited acts for multi-level selling organizations and individuals;
- Organizations and individuals doing business in setting up, operating, and providing digital platform services such as prohibiting acts without prior notice, not disclosing to consumers the sponsorship of influencers in any form to use the image, advice, and recommendations of these individuals to promote trade or encourage consumers to buy and use products, goods, or services;
- prohibited acts of preventing consumers from inspecting products, goods, or services unless otherwise provided for by law;
- or prohibited act of requiring consumers to purchase more products, goods, or services as a mandatory condition for entering into a contract against the will of the consumer.
Responsibilities of business organizations and individuals toward consumers
The additional Law provides for responsibilities to:
- ensure the safety, measurement, quantity, volume, quality, and utility of products, goods, and services sold and provided to consumers;
- specify the responsibility of protecting consumer information;
- clarify the warranty recalculation period in case of product and goods renewal;
- supplement regulations on responsibility for receiving and handling consumer complaints, requests, and complaints.
For regulations on recall of defective products and goods: The Law classifies 02 groups of products and goods with defects, including group A and group B.
- Group A is products and goods capable of causing damage to the life and health of consumers;
- Group B is products and goods that can cause damage to consumer property.
For each group, the Law stipulates the corresponding recall responsibility in order to create favorable conditions for business organizations and individuals in identifying the group of defective products and carrying out the recall in an appropriate manner.
In order to comprehensively protect the interests of consumers, the Law adds the regulation on responsibility for providing services that are not in accordance with the registered contents, notices, announcements, listings, advertisements, introductions, contracts, and commitments.
For some specific transactions, the Law adds a number of regulations to strengthen the responsibilities of business organizations and individuals in transactions, including:
- Specifying the information to be provided in the remote transaction; additional responsibilities of organizations and individuals doing business with consumers in transactions in cyberspace which specify the responsibilities of the organization that establishes and operates the intermediary digital platform and the organization that establishes and operates the large digital platform.
- Regulations on the responsibility to publicly notify the legal representative in Vietnam or appoint an authorized representative in Vietnam and publicly notify the authorized representative in Vietnam in the continuous service provision.
- Supplementing multi-level selling, selling goods not at regular transaction locations, and specifying specific responsibilities of business organizations and individuals when performing the above transactions with consumers.
Dispute settlement method
The law provides new regulations on the right of consumers to require business organizations and individuals to negotiate or the right to request state management agencies in charge of protecting consumer interests and social organizations to participate in protecting the rights of consumers to assist consumers in negotiating when their legitimate rights and interests are infringed. This is considered a method to continue to improve the efficiency of dispute resolution between consumers and business organizations and individuals.
For the method in court: The law improves the provisions on simplified procedures applied to settle civil cases on protecting consumer interests. This regulation aims to create a breakthrough, potentially improving the efficiency of the trial of civil cases on consumer protection in court. Accordingly, a civil case on the protection of consumer interests with a transaction value of less than VND 100 million shall be settled according to summary procedures without having to satisfy the conditions specified in Clause 1, Article 317 of the Civil Procedure Code. The above regulations are suitable to the aspects of the case of consumers, meeting the practical requirements and trends of experience in many countries in the region and around the world.
In order to create a general support mechanism for consumer protection activities, the Law adds new regulations on damages in civil cases on consumer protection, specifically as follows: In case the beneficiary cannot be identified, the compensation for damage in the civil case on protecting the interests of consumers for the public interest is sued by a social organization participating in the protection of consumer interests is used to serve general activities for the benefit of consumers according to the Government’s regulations.
State management of consumer rights protection
The new law adds specific responsibilities of each provincial, district, and commune People’s Committee. Supplement to clarify the responsibilities of state management agencies, provincial People’s Committees in building a national database of information on protecting consumer interests; assigning tasks to social organizations with principles and purposes to participate in protecting consumer interests and building a coordination mechanism to protect consumer interests at the central and local levels.