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  1. #1
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    StrontiumDog's Avatar
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    A year of living dangerously for consumers

    http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/loca...-for-consumers

    BUYER BEWARE

    A year of living dangerously for consumers

    Refusing to be cowed by frivolous lawsuits, watchdog is as keen to take on corporate giants as ever
    • Published: 8/01/2011 at 03:51 AM
    • Newspaper section: News

    Jiraporn Limpananont, chairwoman of the Foundation for Consumers, is as determined as ever to take on the corporate world.



    ``It's a kind of threat we see as an effort to weaken consumers' power and to hush academics,'' she said, referring to a libel suit against a colleague, an electrical engineering expert and the Telecommunications Consumer Protection Institute filed by a telecom firm last year.

    ``We think the lawsuit is just a tactic to buy time on the issue and to silence us, and so we're not afraid of it.''

    The firm is demanding the three pay over one million baht each for general remarks they made in public forums about the potential danger of mobile phone base stations that could pose health risks to people exposed to electromagnetic radiation.

    The lawsuit was among several legal actions filed against consumers and activists last year in a turbulent period.

    Apart from legal threats, the foundation's Bangkok office and most of its equipment were badly damaged during last year's political unrest by a fire at an adjacent shopping mall.

    The office has been restored recently with donations of cash and equipment.

    More importantly, many consumers last year expressed dissatisfaction with services and products. About 7,600 complaints flooded the state-run Office of the Consumer Protection Board and the foundation.

    The credit card sector attracted many complaints. Cardholders cried foul about unreasonable extra charges, excessive fees and unfair debt collection.

    The property sector is also not viewed in a good light.

    Homebuyers complained about lower-than-expected quality of homes and condominiums, broken promises by developers and delays in construction, among other things.

    Many complaints were also from car owners, telecom customers and commodity buyers.

    The Food and Drug Administration recently reported that there were 1,145 cases of illegal food products and drugs between October 2009 and September 2010. During that period, it received 1,124 complaints from consumers, mainly about food, medicines and cosmetics.

    The foundation says lax safety stand ards on public transport are a concern because this is a matter of life and death. Last year more than 2,000 bus passengers were injured or killed in road accidents.

    Consumers were also ripped off by the insurance industry, which introduced unfair policies, and this cannot be left unaddressed this year, the foundation added. Companies reduced their level of responsibilities to the insured.

    ``We, however, saw an increase in awareness by consumers who took actions to demand their rights,'' said Saree Ongsomwang, the foundation's secretary-general.

    ``We would like to see businesses being alert [about consumers' rights] too.''

    Business operators show little interest in taking responsibility for faulty products, she said. As a result, consumers had to take the matter into their own hands by filing cases with courts. In 2010, the foundation helped individuals file 386 consumer cases seeking total compensation of 212 million baht.

    This included a case in which the foundation and its allies filed a case to the Central Administrative Court against executives of the Transport Ministry, seeking a court order to revoke a contract with the Don Muang tollway operator. They said the contract enabled the operator to significantly increase its charges.

    Despite all the bad news, there was a victory. The National Telecommunications Commission last year asked five telecom operators to launch number portability, allowing customers to keep their phone number when switching from one operator to another.

    Ms Saree said she was positive this year would be more promising for consumers if a bill to protect consumers was passed by parliament.

    The bill introduces a new organisation whose potential roles include provision of advice to state agencies in issuing measures and regulations to protect consumers. Consumer representatives will also sit on the board of the body.

    Such an agency will prove a boon to consumers, she said. The agency can bring about changes on several issues long advocated by activists, such as the introduction of better standards for food safety and a new regulation to better control the banking industry's credit card fees and interest rates.

    ``We believe this agency can force the business sector to be more responsible for their customers,'' Ms Saree said.

    Note: This story is the last of the Buyer Beware columns, which will no longer appear in the Bangkok Post. We, however, are committed to keep reporting on consumer news in our news and other pages.

    Contact Buyer Beware: consumers[at]bangkokpost.co.th
    "Slavery is the daughter of darkness; an ignorant people is the blind instrument of its own destruction; ambition and intrigue take advantage of the credulity and inexperience of men who have no political, economic or civil knowledge. They mistake pure illusion for reality, license for freedom, treason for patriotism, vengeance for justice."-Simón Bolívar

  2. #2
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    This consciousness will take at least 2 generations to be effective in Thailand....all rather moot, because it's been too late for some time now. Kudos go out to those whom give a rat's arse.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by StrontiumDog
    The firm is demanding the three pay over one million baht each for general remarks they made in public forums about the potential danger of mobile phone base stations that could pose health risks to people exposed to electromagnetic radiation.
    Yes that RF radiation is obviously very dangerous. You can't see it and you probably don't understand it. Therefore it must be dangerous. Having said that I am not a big fan of transmitting it, even at low power such as from a mobile phone right next to my head.

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