Increase special vigilance to protect consumers

Published On: March 21, 2023 07:30 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

Nepal Bureau of Standards and Metrology (NBSM) has taken action against nearly 8,000 traders in eight months of the current fiscal year, who were found to be cheating unsuspecting consumers by tampering with weighing instruments. The use of unregistered and un-renewed measuring devices was also found with some traders, indicating their lack of compliance with regulatory standards. This is a matter of grave concern as it directly affects the interests of consumers who deserve accurate measurement and fair pricing. The increase in incidents of cheating consumers through measuring devices has prompted NBSM to increase special vigilance and take strict action against offenders.

NBSM has granted permission to 2,075 traders to use measuring scales and weighing devices, while also renewing their licenses till mid-March. The office has also conducted 125 single monitoring and 116 joint market monitoring for the protection of consumer rights and interests. The effort by NBSM to intensify market monitoring with limited resources and means deserves appreciation and support. In fact, the monitoring and inspection conducted by NBSM have revealed alarming results, with a significant number of traders found to be using measuring machines that measure randomly. This raises questions about the accuracy of measurement in the marketplace, and whether consumers are getting their money's worth. It is essential that traders comply with regulatory standards and ensure that their measuring devices are registered and renewed in a timely manner.

The NBSM's efforts to protect consumers' rights and interests have yielded tangible results. The revenue collected by NBSM in eight months of the current year stands at Rs 10.35 million, which is a good sign that the office is successfully carrying out its mandate. However, the primary objective of NBSM is not revenue collection, but to ensure fair practices in the market, which benefits consumers and traders alike. The head of NBSM, Rakesh Kumar Jha, has rightly stated that anyone who intentionally cheats consumers will be prosecuted. This is a strong message to those traders who engage in fraudulent practices that violate regulatory standards. It is essential that NBSM takes swift and decisive action against such offenders to ensure that consumers are not taken for granted. It is high time that the NBSM gave continuity to the campaign to crack down the fraudulent businesspersons and expand its monitoring also to see quality of food as well as other items on sale.  

Of course, the monitoring and inspection conducted by NBSM is not limited to weighing scales alone. The office has also checked petroleum product distribution pumps, vehicle tanks, and taxi meters. This shows the breadth and depth of the office's mandate and its commitment to protecting consumer interests. However, it is crucial that NBSM continues its monitoring and inspection activities across a wide range of products and services to ensure that consumers are not cheated. The onus also lies on the concerned government bodies to equip NBSM with adequate technical and human resources so that it can fulfill its mandated responsibilities. It is also important to increase the number of offices of NBSM even outside the Kathmandu Valley to effectively monitor the market. 

Being the consumers of an imperfect market, Nepali consumers are most often the victims of a number of flaws. They are vulnerable, every now and then, in relation to black market, tampering of weighing devices, hoarding, short measures and selling of standard products, among others. Few years ago, a large number of anomalies were detected at petrol pumps and manufacturing and distribution of cooking gas cylinders. However, the market regulator is almost silent in these segments nowadays. 

The monitoring and inspection conducted by NBSM have revealed the extent of fraudulent practices in the market. It is high time that traders take compliance with regulatory standards seriously and ensure that their measuring devices are registered and renewed. Stern actions against wrongdoers, widening the scope of ‘Nepal Standard’ certification, maintaining transparency, consumers literacy, and effective inspections, could help ensure market efficiency.  This will not only benefit consumers but also traders who engage in fair practices. NBSM's efforts to intensify market monitoring deserve support from all stakeholders, including traders and consumers.

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