Kazakhstan is set to improve its consumer protection system
An Interdepartmental Council on Consumer Protection will be established in the country, Kazakh Minister of Trade and Integration Bakhyt Sultanov announced at the government meeting. He said that currently 65 public organizations in the field of consumer protection are operating in Kazakhstan. Sultanov added that the possibility of their enlargement and strengthening along sectoral lines is now being worked out, which will enable the public sector to establish full-fledged cooperation with sectoral government structures.
“In addition, the law provides for the establishment of the Interdepartmental Council on Consumer Protection. Its meetings will discuss the results of the work of state bodies, identify gaps and make corresponding decisions. The composition and status of the council are currently under consideration by the government,” Sultanov said.
The minister proposed a number of innovations that will improve the system of consumer protection in Kazakhstan to a qualitatively new level. First, he proposed to consider the establishment of a National Consumer Association with a wide representation in the regions of the country. Secondly, to establish an ombudsman institution on the basis of non-governmental organizations. Thirdly, it is proposed to introduce a mandatory requirement for the development of regulatory legal acts, on the basis of which regulatory impact on consumer interests would have to be analysed and agreed upon with the authorized body. It is also proposed to include public associations in the field of consumer rights protection into the consultative and advisory bodies under the ministries and governors’ offices.
“Fifth, to introduce key performance indicator (KPI) of the level of consumer satisfaction and trust in government agencies, local executive bodies and quasi-public organizations. Sixth, to adopt a set of rules for voluntary business practices and norms in model contracts for public and private organizations, taking into account full interests and rights of consumers. Seventh, launch a course of free online lectures for consumers and businesses on consumer protection tools. With the support of these initiatives, the ministry is ready to make the necessary changes to the regulatory legal acts as soon as possible,” Sultanov stressed.
In addition, he emphasized that it is necessary to consider consumers’ complaints without bringing them to court. Sultanov mentioned a three-stage system for processing claims.
“For example, in Germany, Austria, Japan and Lithuania, the state performs ‘smart’ administration, and institutions of pre-trial settlement are engaged in the restoration of violated rights. In addition, Russia, Germany and Lithuania have Interdepartmental Councils, at which problematic issues in the field of consumer protection are discussed. A three-stage grievance system has been introduced. The first stage provides for the seller’s obligation to consider the consumer’s claim independently 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,” Sultanov explained.
It is not mandatory for a consumer to go through the second stage - it is up to the consumer to decide whether to file a complaint with the authorized body. The final stage is the consumer’s appeal to the court.
“Our common goal is to create such conditions when the seller and the service provider will be interested in avoiding disputes, and, if they arise, to solve them at the first stage. The judicial system should also be interested in expedited resolution of disputes with a pro-consumer approach to the problems,” Sultanov stressed.