Back in 2020, the government renamed the Cambodia Import-Export and Fraud Repression directorate-general to Consumer Protection, Competition and Fraud Repression Directorate-General (CCF) and revised its roles and responsibilities.

The Post interviewed Phan Oun, director-general of the CCF, on his organisation’s mission and the activities they carry out to help Cambodia’s consumers and businesses.

What is CCF’s mission?

The CCF directorate-general is an institution under the Ministry of Commerce that plays a key role in protecting consumers and its responsibilities are clearly defined, as indicated by the new name, as the protection of consumer rights and interests and ensuring market competition.

We work to ensure a fairly competitive business environment that is free from fraud while ensuring the safety and quality of products and services.

How do you accomplish that mission? What other roles does CCF have?

The CCF plays an important role in researching, formulating policies and strategies related to quality, safety of goods and services, and consumer protection and competition.

We also have the role of inspecting goods and services under our jurisdiction. We work with police and other authorities to investigate and prevent fraudulent business activities and we protect consumers’ rights and interests to ensure the quality, safety and regulatory compliance of products and services as well as taking action on contracts that restrict or defame market competition.

All of this helps to ensure a more competitive market for goods and services in Cambodia and that helps consumers by providing them with more options. More choices will generally lead to better products at lower prices because businesses must compete for market share.

The CCF also acts as the secretariat for the National Commission for Examination of Halal Products in Cambodia and the National Codex Committee as well as the secretariat of the Cambodia Competition Commission once it is established in the near future.

What are the major achievements of the CCF this past year?

We have inspected markets 614 times and seized nearly 39 tonnes of non-compliant goods for destruction. For example, in one operation we intercepted seven tonnes of shrimp injected with CMC jelly to make them appear fresher and larger.

We have also investigated outbreaks of alcohol poisoning in the capital and Kandal, Kampot, Pursat and Banteay Meanchey provinces where we tested the samples of rice wine and grape wine in our laboratories for the presence of methanol.

What was the result of CCF’s investigation of fuel sales?

We have been checking the quality of octane index and quantity of gasoline dispensed at 1,980 gas stations and depots and found 836 of them were selling gasoline which did not comply with the quality or quantity at the prices advertised. Those businesses were fined and given warnings and if they are caught again the penalties will increase.

We’ve also examined the quality of alcohol used in all kinds of sanitising hand gels and we seized 200,000 litres of methanol from warehouses, markets and pharmacies and confiscated 208,546 bottled beverages.

CCF officials inspect market goods for quality, safety and regulatory compliance. CCF

Have any cases been sent to the courts?

As for court procedures, we have summoned 15 companies to clarify and provide documents related to the advertisement of products they claimed were award-winning. We have also received 19 complaints from consumers about private companies, 14 of which are still under investigation, three have been taken to court and two were settled out of court.

How many criminal offences has CCF found?

We intervened in 759 cases where crimes were arguably being committed and implemented penalties according to the type and severity of each offense, typically a fine on the first offence or seizure of property. Seven of those offenses have been taken to the courts and 401 different products were found to be non-compliant with technical regulations and confiscated.

What metrics does the CCF use to measure its success?

Our officials have been highly dedicated both physically and mentally to performing their duties and responsibilities in a professional manner. We have field investigators but we also have officials whose work is to craft clear policies, plan enforcement actions and study market indicators to determine the impacts we’re having.

Our officials also cooperate with other government institutions and with the police authorities. We’ve helped in the fight against Covid-19 by eliminating the sale of large amounts of counterfeit alcohol, or methanol, from the markets and we’ve monitored market prices to prevent any excessive price increases on essential goods by opportunistic traders.

What obstacles does the CCF face in its work and what must be done to overcome them?

We have faced a number of obstacles such as shortages of necessary equipment. The lack of necessary materials to enforce the law leads to delays in enforcing the law and that increases the number of victims and encourages lawless behaviour.

We also encounter occasional issues with securing the full cooperation of other government institutions in areas concerning trade, food safety and consumer protection.

Fully effective implementation of our policies, laws and regulations in some areas has not been achieved or even improved upon as yet.

The analytical capabilities of our laboratories remain limited and upgrades to them would mean that we are in a better position to ensure effective analysis and meet internationally recognised testing standards for our citizens.

The laws and regulations to support the process of carrying out our work are still generally inadequate. Cambodia needs more regulations controlling advertising, electrical and electronic products, food handling and also procedures for implementing those laws and regulations and so on.

Another problem is consumer understanding of laws and regulations as well as understanding by traders and producers. Compliance with the laws we do have is still limited and many apparently don’t feel it’s necessary to follow them.

What are the goals of CCF for 2022?

CCF still plans to continue to build and develop the necessary regulations for the effective and efficient implementation of competition laws and consumer protection laws in order to protect the interests of the people, especially the safety of citizens when engaging in the consumption of foods and other goods.

We will also continue to make the public aware of the recently approved competition law and strictly enforce the laws when inspecting goods in the markets.

And we will also continue our monitoring of fuel businesses and those we caught previously who’ve done too little to change their ways will start to face stiffer penalties such as the loss of their operating licences.