The Consumer Dispute Redress Mechanism
1.0 Consumer protection
The purpose of setting this consumer policy is to ensure that the ASEAN citizens are brought to reality through ensuring that the consumer protection is the centre of modern, effective, efficient and access to a market that is fair to all. This policy is made to ensure that the consumers are protected from any serious attacks and threats which they can’t manage by their own and put them in a position to make right choices emanating from information that is accurate and involving clarity and consistency. It will also make sure to improve on their welfare and ensure effective protection to safety and even their interests economically. It also takes care of the interests of the future consumers and furthermore, those who can’t cover their own interests as consumers. This is all reached by developing a protection framework that is common to all the consumers consisting of principles prescribing the structure with policies and programmes that enables the ASEANs and aligning them among the AMS (ASEAN Member States). These principles are formulated for supporting the AMS as they seek to strengthen the consumer protection in their institutions, legislations and even other various dimensions.
1.2 Comparing the scope and emphasis of the ASEAN High-Level Principles on Consumer Protection and the UN Guidelines for future protection
Comparison on the principles
On the principle of fair and equitable treatment of consumers, both of them talk about making it an integral issue in the consumer markets. Their views are that consumers should be protected from any hazardous business practices especially to those less privileged and vulnerable consumers. Furthermore, there should be laws formulated in order to provide advices, inspection and enforcement. There should also be assessment of risks thus ensuring the consumers are kept safe from every attack that might invade to them unknowingly.
1.2.1Consumer transparency and their disclosure to information
Both the ASEAN and the UN guideline principles address the issue of consumer access to correct and accurate information and no information that can mislead them is availed to them. Reliable information has to be relayed to the consumers, concerning the product terms, the quantity and even the guidelines that the products are supplied with. These information need to be comprehensible and easy to understand for the consumers to make the right choices. However, the ASAPCP 2025, in the ASEAN high-quality principles identified a challenge with the accuracy of information, that there existed an information gap. It was inadequacy in awareness concerning the protection of and the redress mechanism of consumers which affected the effectiveness of legislation enforcement
1.2.2 Protection from harmful consumption
In both the ASEAN and the UN believe that customers are never to be put under the risks of any harmful commodities. Also, any enterprise should never subject any customer to false, unauthorized and unethical practices including market tricks that are abusive or involving the collection of debts. Such may lead unexpected risks that may harm the consumers. However, the ASEAN finds a challenge concerning the environmental consumption of the products made by the manufacturers. It states that sometimes the information about how a product was manufactured and perhaps its ingredients are never revealed to the consumers thus at sometimes consumers may end up making the wrong decisions.
1.2.3Consumer problems advocacy
These organizations believe that the consumer’s voice should gain respect from the producing agents and the government too. It is stated that the businesses should formulate a mechanism for handling consumer complains thus ensuring that they are well catered for. They believe that the government has to understand the views of the consumers before making various decisions concerning the related industrial, social and the trade policies. This is believed to promote market trust and the heads of the sector are able to work with the consumers peacefully.
In addition, the ASEAN High-Quality Principle of Consumer Protection believes that there should be a common understanding between the government levels and the various businesses and the stakeholders. It states that consumer protection should be viewed as a system having various elements within it. The elements involved include empowerment to the consumers which equips the consumer with knowledge to understand their interests, the Non-governmental Organizations on consumers, who protect the consumer opinions before the decision formulators in the government, the bodies dealing with trade and businesses, who are there to promote high-quality trade, the government and those who regulate, who ensure compilation of laws is done and the legal system that ensures the interests of the consumers are upheld.
Furthermore, the ASEAN speaks of protection of consumers concerned with E-commerce which has not been mentioned by the UN. Since there is a rise of online transaction among their community, they will have to incorporate various principles that will aid them to ensure fair trade in the electronic commerce. These principles will include carrying out reviews on their protection laws in order to identify the areas that needs to be amended in the legislation. Also, they have to put in place a mechanism for resolving disputes in order to ensure fair trade and outcomes are achieved. Also, they will have to know and understand the approach towards the long term updating to the e-commerce.
2.1Comparison on the guidelines
Safeguarding the economic consumer interests
The main aim should be to meet the various interests of the consumers at whatever cost. Stakeholders should seek to terminate the activities that are focused on disputing the consumer interests through ensuring that those involved follow the laws stipulated towards the availing of the goods and services to the consumers. Also, the members of the state should the policies clearly state the responsibilities of the producers thus ensuring that the goods delivered are durable and reliable. Furthermore, making the programmes for educating the consumers in order for them to understand their needs and how to present them. Subsequently, there should be creation of awareness about the consumer rights on the legislation that is in existence to equip the consumers with tactics on how to present their rights.
Ensuring standardized quality goods and services
Both of the organizations give various guidelines concerning the provision of quality goods to the consumers. It is stated that there should be formulated standards under which the commodities should be manufactured, failure to meet such standards they will not be presented to the consumers for purchase. Also, there should be facilities to assess and ensure that the quality of the commodities to be presented to the consumers. The ASEAN states that there should be regulations for safety to make sure that commodities are in the right state for their use or for future consumption. Responsibilities should be well outlined for businesses entrusted with advocacy and reaching out to consumers.
Resolving and redressing disputes
There should be efficiency, transparency in the mechanism that has been formulated to address matters of consumers through the administration or the judiciary. Consumers should also be provided with remedy measures in which no extra costs or unexpected delays are imposed. There should also be the understanding between businesses and the consumers to ensure they move at the same pace and are always in agreement thus avoiding disputes. The ASEAN says that the NGOs should come up with a complain centre that is accessible to consumers nationwide. They also move on to suggest that there should be a cross-border redress mechanism to cater for the various consumers.
Protection of consumers involved in E-commerce.
Both organizations agree that the consumers should be well equipped with the knowledge on the challenges they might face once engaged in e-commerce and the pre-cautions they can take to ensure their privacy is assured. Also putting into consideration, the approaches to the long-term decisions on updating their system into the e-commerce thus being in a position to avail to consumers the significant ways of carrying out their businesses at lower risks. Furthermore, those handling cases pertaining e-commerce should be well trained in order to ensure full enforcement of the measures and set laws. The UN consumer protection also states that there should be transparency and well formulated policies in order to win the confidence of the consumers while undertaking e-commerce.
Both the ASEAN and the UN organizations, concerning the principles and guidelines governing consumer protection are at consensus with each other despite the few views that ASEAN have as indicated above. This is to show that there is a great need to ensure that the consumers are protected from any risks that can be imposed on them or the attacks they can expose themselves to, unknowingly.
3.0 Assessing a southeast Asian state and Australia, focusing on consumer redress
Considering Malaysia and Australia, Australia is said to possess a system that is a bit sophisticated for the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) for resolving the consumer misunderstandings, which gave way for experiments being done concerning the various forms of consumer ADR. However, in they believe that many nations have neglected the issue of consumer rights and that there are various issues that hinder consumers from accessing their rights once they are violated by any producers or businesses. Ewoud, 2013 gives various challenges that a consumer may face once they seek justice, the challenges include the court fees involved while presenting their cases and once their plea is accepted, it might also take ages to get what they deserve due to a lot of adjournment of their case.
The Malaysia dispute redress mechanism is believed to kick off in the year 1987 to be run in the Magistrate’s court. Furthermore, four other redress mechanisms were introduced; the Insurance Mediation Bureau was established in the year 1991, followed by the CPA in the year 1999, then the establishment of the Tribunal for Homebuyers Claims in 2002 and finally the Malaysia Aviation commission in 2015 and was given the mandate to resolve consumer claims.
In both Malaysia and Australia, they believe in a redress mechanism that offers transparency, fairness, affordable and accessibility to the consumers and more so to the less privileged or disadvantaged ones.
In the ‘Small Claim Procedure’ of Malaysia and the ‘Community Justice Centre’ dispute redress mechanism of Australia, talk of the minor consumer cases delt with in courts of law led by different personalities but they differ in the way of executing justice to the parties involved. In Malaysia, a claim has to be put in files in three parts, that is the accuser details firstly followed by accused details and finally the participants of the case and also with the inclusion of the amount that is being claimed for. The magistrate here is concerned with bringing the claimant into consent. Here, getting the judgement is never guaranteed that it would be of satisfaction unless the creditor finds a platform that they can pressurize for it to happen. Whereas in in Australia, mediation is the most commonly used method where two individuals are nominated and undergoes some training, done by the CJCs to act as mediators on behalf of the CJCs to oversee the sessions. They also do facilitation as a service which involves cases concerning the neighbours and their sole purpose it to ensure there is fairness as the consumers reach to certain agreement.
In Malaysia, there is also the use of Ombudsman Financial Service (OFS), whereby during the process of resolving any of the disputes, none the parties involved, either the accuser or the accused are allowed to have access to any lawyer in matters of the case because the process is all informal. This is to mean that the body is never confined to any set rules, evidences, the prosecution of the state, re-examinations or any guidelines that a legal court adopts. Therefore, the head looks into the case and determines, by the use of the available evidences and lays an establishment of the rights or wrongs about the matter. Judgement is given regarding the information that is presented before the OFS, no seeking o more evidences is ever involved. The verdict is relayed within fourteen days after the information has been compiled and documented but if the complainant has not been satisfied, they can seek further from the courts of law.
However, the Private ADR, commonly referred to as the Industry Ombudsman Scheme is purely concerned with ensuring the consumer interests are considered at all cost. It seeks to equip its members with information about how safe and quality the products they are engaged in are. This is achieved through a magazine or the web page. It also ensures that the voice of the consumers is heard in the government or in other platforms where they hold discussions concerning the consumers. With these schemes, it does introduction of new consumers who get enrolled through mobile phone calls who are over ten thousand in every year in order to keep track of their safety business-wise. This scheme in Australia, often barely involve themselves in ensuring there are terms of agreement between the producers and the buyers but they channel such requests to other bodies that offer a more formal way of resolving disputes. However, like it is in Malaysia, the scheme is dependent mostly on the information that the parties provide. However, in Australia, the disputes are never redressed unless the complainant pays a fee to cater for it.
In Malaysia, there is a scheme referred to as the Tribunal for Homebuyer Claims, which emanated from the Housing Development Act, 1996 which is usually confined within the home purchasers to those who buy immediately from the home buyers. TCC is entitled to all maters regarding the home purchasers but leaves out those regarding to tribunal.
However, in Australia, concerning the same scheme under which there is the Home-Based Services, seeks to equip the consumers with true and relevant information about the commodities which the producers’ avail. these HBSs have been identified to provide the best in undertaking their tasks of redressing the misunderstandings. It focuses on the enquiries that are recommended giving the participants a chance to bring their petitions before the HBS. However, coming to consensus between the involved parties at this scheme seems difficult because of the high costs involved as they seek justice. This brings Malaysia and Australia into consensus about the Home buyer scheme, they are of similar views.
Furthermore, in Malaysia, the CPA 1999 declares that there is no participant that an advocate can represent in any case. The verdicts arrived at can be emphasized by the Magistrates’ court for which if not complied to in a duration of fourteen days becomes another case and triggers a fine. Here, the consumer is advised to have an advocate who can follow-up the case issues.
5.0 Consumer ADR in the years to come in Australia
The state has come up with a sophisticated mechanism to address the consumer disputes in the future. To begin with, the home -based initiative has been approved to be able to redress the disputes in the meantime and in the foreseen years for various states too, like for Japan. In addition, a uniform idea of is found in making known the issue of the government availing affordable and fast assistance to consumers with such cases before they grow big and get to the tribunal levels where the costs shoot high, which has been witnessed in Australia despite the idea of a liberal economy for over years.
Government’s provision of aid in the infant stages of a case portrays in various ways including a mediation that is free of charge being offered those who inspect from the OFT’s. the victory attached to the schemes s not to give interpretation about the ambiguous consumers issues but there are various other things that they do. These include; providing services that are affordable to the consumers reason being that they receive support from the government, there is fairness involved because government’s hand is involved to ensure propulsion of the activities and finally the fear of similar entities which might occur severally and thus motivating the consumers to settle at the agreed terms.
Furthermore, many sectors are channelled into the electronic commerce in Australia thus carrying out its operations in the first-tier. As a result of the online businesses that have taken action in the state, there are a lot of mechanisms for redressing disputes that have come up. Subsequently, those in possession of the systems for litigation can confirm how the technology has brought immense transformation in the manner in which disputes are resolved. Furthermore, there is the introduction of the virtual courts making use of conferences via videos, the electronic filing systems and even the electronic calls being made. In addition, in Australia there are standards that have been incorporated to ensure networking of the courts and thus boosting the dispute resolution systems.
Furthermore, there are laws set by the nation in order to counteract the barriers that hinder the interrelationship between businesses in various countries, put in place in Australia as a future tool. The allowance to make use of the automated records has granted Australia the viability to continue executing fairness in resolving disputes in the years to come.
6.0 The future of consumer redress in Malaysia
Ensuring more space in the courtrooms. Much attempts have been done to ensure that the courtrooms are no full to capacity in Malaysia. This has been achieved by having more sections of courts and coming up with tribunals for the small cases to reduce the workloads in the judiciary (Choong & Balan, 2009). The introduction of ICT to act as back up in the redress process has also been put in place in Malaysia.
The idea of enhancing consumer privacy and building trust in them has also been addresses as an aspect to consider in their future. By ensuring privacy while resolving the disputes, covers the good will of the consumers and thus continue to maintain the relationships that existed (Van den Heuvel, 2000). In addition, you realize that with confidentiality while dealing with consumer issues attracts even a greater pay from such consumers and thus preserving the relations.
Nevertheless, the ability to provide services for consumers without having to cross borders is considerably important especially for the financial consumers. In order to cater for such an issue in Malaysia, there is the introduction of the Organization of American States (OAS) that made sure it resolved the border issues.
Furthermore, while resolving the disputes involving finances, Malaysia has come up with strategies to ensure the interests of the consumers is considered before making any moves involving them, coming to the idea that the redress mechanism must be for the common good of all the consumers (Kamali, 2000).
Subsequently, the idea that the mechanisms involved in redressing the consumer misunderstanding having got some loopholes towards business has been identified calling for an act within the law delivering results that’s have deviated from the law has to be addressed in Malaysia (Ghanem, 2014).
Having the threats due to failure to adhere to the set business regulations in the mechanisms can be solved using real-time in order to evade incurring expenses which might damage the rapport of the parties involved. Also, the access to the ODR among businesses is an assurance of a secure transaction because money can be refunded once the consumer is not satisfied with the deliveries and the cases can be executed at a faster and confidential manner. Subsequently, accessibility to the real-time complain mechanism will help build trust amongst the involved partners. This gives Malaysia the assurance that the future of consumer dispute redress mechanism is well catered for.
According to the above discussions, a common challenge to the resolution schemes is ensuring that the services are relayed to those who need it mostly and more so to the disadvantaged. Also, ensuring that the services are offered for the common good of the consumers is a great problem that has to be addressed. Furthermore, to consider the consumer’s affordability as they seek justice for violation of their rights has been neglected in most of the schemes and thus, they are to be ensured.
The interests of the consumer, not forgetting has to be put in to consideration while making any choice of production of goods and services for their consumption. Furthermore, the idea of the Online Redress Mechanism when incorporated to the schemes, there should be a follow-up done to make sure it all goes well and suits every consumer.
The information being provided to the consumers has to be accurate too, to aid them in making the right choices in their purchases. This is said to give satisfaction and build the trust with the partners they associate with. Not forgetting, confidentiality of customers information has to be assured for them to continue partnering with their producers, this is especially in online transactions.
For the years to come, both Malaysia and Australia have made all the efforts to ensure no disappointments to the consumers through incorporation of new technologies in courts and other redress mechanisms that will bring openness and fairness in executing justice to their consumers. This assures consumers of greater days ahead.
Financial Mediation Bureau. (n.d.). A Milestone in the History of Alternative Dispute
Ghanem, M. A. E. (2015). The Negative Consequences of the Phenomenon of the Slow Pace of Litigation in Egypt: Economic and Commercial Issues. The Macrotheme Review, 4(1), 137–150.
House Buyer Tribunal and Abd Aziz Osma v. Unique Creations Sdn Bhd [Civil Appeal No. W-01-503-10]  1 LNS 1309 [Malaysia].
Kamali, M. H. (2000). Islamic commercial law: an analysis of futures and options. Cam-bridge: The Islamic Texts Society.
Resolution and Financial Consumer Protection in Malaysia. In Annual Report 2015(pp. 10-15). Financial Ombudsman Scheme. (2016). Terms of Reference for the Ombudsman for Financial Services. Financial Services (Financial Ombudsman Scheme) Regulations 2015 [Malaysia]. Financial Services Act 2013 [Malaysia].
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