Minister of Commerce Pan Sorasak urged the establishment of a national consumers’ association to help protect consumer rights and interests by, among other measures, reporting dishonest business practices to the relevant authorities.

The call came during the 2nd National Consumer Conference, themed “Strengthening consumer rights and power to encourage honest practices on the market”. The hybrid event was held on April 4 in Phnom Penh, with 160 in-person participants and another 300 online attendees.

“Such an association could have units which monitor each sector. They would represent consumers and protect their rights by reporting companies which conduct dishonest business practices, in addition to existing mechanisms,” he said.

Sorasak added that consumer rights and interests are protected by the governments of all UN member countries.

“We take a dim view of unethical or dishonest business practices, whether on or offline,” he said.

As a member of the UN, he said the Cambodian government has created legal frameworks and regulations to protect consumers, and that law enforcement institutions have mechanisms they could use to address complaints outside of the courts to effectively foster international cooperation and share information and experiences relating to consumer protection.

“Furthermore, I encourage consumers to unite to establish a consumer association,” he said.

“The association would help to report dishonest practices to the commerce ministry or the National Committee for Consumer Protection through the Consumer Protection, Competition and Fraud Repression Directorate-General [CCF], and other regulators.

Sorasak also called on all businesspeople to fulfil the obligations as stipulated in the laws.

“We appreciate businesses which consider the rights and interests of consumers. Adhering to legal obligations is essential to sustainable development,” he said.

Consumer protection is prioritised in the ASEAN strategy for consumer policy over the next 10 years (2016-2025). The policy encourages member countries to create regulatory frameworks to improve protections.

According to the commerce ministry, in line with the vision, the government has introduced the Rectangular Strategy Phase IV. It has also drafted and approved laws on consumer protection and mechanisms to protect consumer rights and safety, improve public health and strengthen goods and service standards, as well as promote competiveness.

CCF director-general Phan Oun said the CCF is tasked with implementing consumer protection law and disseminating them to the public and private sectors. He urged the participation of all sides in formulating polices, action plans and mechanisms to protect consumer rights and interests.

“We all are consumers, so the laws on consumer protection, online trade regulations, the laws on competition and the laws on food safety are relevant to all of us,” he added.

“We must also make sure that the public, as consumers, are educated enough to protect themselves from risks, whether from unsafe or expired goods, or from illegal internet transactions,” he said.