Parliament is to consider a new law about product safety which might require scrapping an old law, and a big chunk of the country’s consumer rights with it.
The new bill is called “Code on Product Safety and Free Flow” which envisages to set up a special commission to monitor product safety in the market.
“This would all have been fine, if it hadn’t been for the fact that the new law requires the repeal of the Consumers Rights Protection Law,” says Lika Todua, food safety project officer at the organization Center for Strategic Research and Development of Georgia (CSRDG).
“Several really important rights of consumer will be lost.”
According to Tudua, the new law provides product safety, but the product quality is neglected. This was regulated by the Consumers Rights law.
She explains that the aim of the bill is to bring legislation in line with international standards, and it would have done so, if it didn’t abrogate an old law.
There are several important issues in the new law which will damage consumers’s interests. One is that the law has a narrow definition of the damage which may be inflicted on the customer, according to Todua. It states that a user will be considered as a victim in case of death or physical damage, or in case of 300 GEL or more of property damage.
“This means that the law does not consider it health damage or property damage below 300 GEL a violation. I don’t know where they got such definition from,” Todua says.
She also points out that there is weak enforcement. Even though the law requires the seller to put on the market only safe product, there will be no sanctions just as long as nobody gets hurt, even if he does sell products that are unsafe.
Another problem with the new law is that if a person accidentally buys a damaged product, he won’t be entitled to return it and get back the money or exchange the product for a new one. The Consumers Rights Protection Law guaranteed the opportunity to return the product within maximum one month, even if no agreement was signed between the consumer and the seller.
The new bill does not apply to warranty agreements, so consumers will still have the opportunity to sign such agreements with some companies.
“But do you read the warranty agreement? Many people don’t read it,” Todua explains.
“In this regard the old law was protecting the consumer, notwithstanding the terms of contract with the company. But now companies may write in the contract whatever they want: they can give you an opportunity to exchange the damage product or not, or may give you a very limited windows of time to complain.”
The new law will affect both consumers and vendors. Tamar Supatashvili, 49, says that she will not buy something from a company which does not provide a warranty agreement.
“If I decide to buy a new washing machine that is really expensive for me, firstly, I will have to collect money for several months,” she says. “And finally when I have enough money to buy it, of course I will want to buy the machine in the market which will give me some guarantees. In other case, it may come out that my new fancy washing machine is damaged and I may lose all the money I had been collecting for months.”
This means that the vendors who do not provide a warranty agreement will lose consumers, and consumers will have narrow range of products to choose from.
The new law is unfair to the consumer, Londa Beria, 21, thinks.
“When I, as a consumer pay for some product and get damaged, why do I have to pay for it?” she asks.
“It’s unfair if I pay for some product and don’t get what I expect, why I have to pay, let’s say for health damage or other damage below 300 GEL. It’s good that at least they cover the cost of the coffin if I die.”
If the new law is approved without something to replace the Consumers Rights Protection Law, then CSRDG together with other non-governmental organizations will begin collecting signatures and petition relevant authorities.
The new bill “Code on Product Safety and Free Flow” was an initiative that came out of the Prime Minister’s office.