Citizens Advice Bureau - a new concept for Sri Lanka
The Citizens Advice Bureau is a concept and a mechanism prevalent
mostly in the UK and many other parts of Europe to assist the citizens
in their day-to-day life.
There is a vibrant legal aid network in the UK sponsored by the
Government which spends a substantial portion of the national income for
Legal aid, Social Security and Housing. The UK is a free country free
for investors worldwide to invest.
It is fertile investor land because there is freedom and atmosphere
for free trade in the country.
People feel free and adapted to the system and trade is in their
blood being traditional traders.
The government looks after every strata of the society in all areas.
There are avenues for rich as well as poor to lead a comfortable
There are no major struggles or uprisings because the Government is
sensitive and conscious about the difficulties of people.
There is free education, free health system, stable social security
system and housing benefits for homeless, and on top of all a free legal
The Government respects the right to know and the freedom of press
and steps have been taken to educate the citizens in order to make their
CABs are helping the citizens find out how the government machinery
runs, where to find, what to find, and when to find any information.
Their difficult issues and problems are dealt with and managed by CABs
which is known as CABX in plural which is a French word.
CABX are run on its own, by Councils or by the government. It is an
organized network of voluntary organisational network, where citizens
are advised on various matters on various subjects under the same roof.
There is no similar institution exist in Sri Lanka yet. The CAA has
initiated to set up a model CAB at the CAA premises soon which will be
the first of its kind. The CAA will be inviting the Legal Aid
Commission, Nenasala, and similar advisory bodies and individuals and
non governmental institutions to be partners in this in various ways.
For example, if a citizen wants to find out information about a
government institution, corporation, the information will be given with
necessary advice to the parties concerned. Experts and volunteers too
will serve in this project in various capacities.
It is to the credit of President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the
Presidential Secretariat to have initiated to set up Call Centre â1919â
which provides information about twenty government institutions, on the
phone backed by âNenasalasâ. This concept and the programme is
successful in Sri Lanka.
There is no similar institution set up anywhere in the world to date.
Any body who wants any information even from Anuradhapura can make
inquiries on the phone on any of the listed institutions, and receive
the relevant information immediately by experienced call center
employees trained for the job. The information in document could be
received via Nanasalas established in the country to wherever he or she
This is advanced information on the concept and the procedure and the
citizens will be informed of details in due course. Once the CABs are
set up, citizens will be able to obtain information, advice, assistance
on any subject and any organisation by just walking into the centre -
and it is a service free of charge.
Guarantees and warranties
Guarantees are offered free of change by manufacturers. In law, a
guarantee is considered to be âan agreement to provide some benefit for
a set period of time in the event of the goods or services being
Eg. A microwave oven manufacturer will offer a guarantee with their
product for 01 year in that they will carry out free repairs for
problems caused by a manufacturing defect. Guarantees give you
additional rights and could be a useful backup when investing money to
purchase items, specially, high priced items, appliances etc.
With some goods you may get a manufacturerâs guarantee where a
manufacturer cannot refuse to deal with a customerâs complaint about a
faulty product simply on the grounds that the product is outside its
Warranties are similar to guarantees, in that they provide a âlegally
bindingâ assurance that any problems caused by manufacturing defects
during a set period will be remedied.
However, unlike guarantees, in most developed countries, the customer
usually pays for this extra protection which covers accidental damage,
cost of repairs and replacement parts.
A guarantee or warranty from the manufacturer may enable the
purchaser to claim a free repair or replacement within a given time
period. For the guarantee to be effective, you may have to ensure that a
registration card may have to be filled and returned to the addresses
stated in the card (usually to the manufacturer).
The purchaser has to make sure that the seller fills in the details
of the purchase correctly as otherwise the card might not be valid and
also, the documentation supplied with the goods that tells you how to
make a claim under the guarantee should be kept in your custody.
Guarantees should be clear and unambiguous. Always read the guarantee
carefully to make sure that you fully understand the terms and
conditions in it.
Be extra cautious about what is printed in small letters. If you do
not understand fully what is printed in the card please seek
clarifications from the trader before you purchase the item. This
applies specially to electrical and electronic appliances of very high
A guarantee should offer an acceptable solution to a customer in the
event of any defect covered by the guarantee within the time specified
Under some guarantees certain costs will have to be borne by the
consumer. E.g. When parts of an item are to be replaced, cost for labour
will have to be borne by the consumer.
Therefore make sure that youâre willing to pay any such costs in the
event the guarantee needs to be enforced.
When enforcing a guarantee, you may need to prove that the fault has
been caused by something which is covered by the guarantee. E.g. In most
instances guarantees are not enforceable on damage caused to electrical
appliances due to lightening or power fluctuations.
Also, when making a claim under a guarantee, make sure that you are
within the valid time period covered by the guarantee. E.g. Some
appliances are covered for a period of one year less 14 days which is
not 365 days.
Guarantees are given not only in respect of goods but it comes with
certain services as well.
In the case of services it is worth relying on the competence and the
past services carried out by any service provider rather than on
companies who offer long term guarantees on services since a 10 year
guarantee may be worthless if the company goes out of business during
the period of guarantee.
However, it is advisable to discuss terms and conditions of any
guarantee offered by the service provider and make sure that you
understand same, prior to obtaining any services.
Always insist on a written guarantee from a service provider rather
than a verbal assurance.
Director (Legal), Consumer Affairs Authority.
Consumer Complaints: key issues
One of the key functions of the Consumer Affairs Authority is to act
as mediator to settle consumer complaints. The Act has defined the
âConsumerâ as any actual or potential user of any goods or services made
available for a consideration by a trader or manufacturer. Consumers can
forward complaints on âgoodsâ and âservicesâ to the CAA.
âGoodsâ covers any food, drink, pharmaceutical, fuel and all other
merchandise. âServicesâ includes electricity, water, gas and
telecommunication, banking, insurance, shipping and entertainment,
production, supply, storage of goods and allied services.
Key issues to note:
In order to get the maximum benefit of this service, consumers must
pay attention to the following points:
* When an issue arises in the marketplace, as the 1st step consumer
must try to settle the problem with the trader amicably;
* If fails, the aggrieved consumers can forward a written complaint
addressed to the Director General of the CAA. Aggrieved consumers have
to forward their complaints with 3 months of the purchase of
* It is necessary to forward copies of all supportive documents you
have along with your complaint. These supportive documents are purchases
receipt, warrantee/Guarantee card, agreement etc.
* With regard to a complaint on food/beverage, forward your complaint
directly to the CAA without informing the trader or the manufacturer /
* With regard to food/beverage you have to submit the defective
sample to the CAA if it is available with you.
If possible forward an unopened sample of the same batch. This is
very much helpful to prove that the sample is not fit for human
Consumer redresses procedure of the CAA:
Once the CAA gets a consumer complaint we adopt the following steps
in order to grant redress to the affected party;
* Register the complaint and call observations from the respondent
As the 1st step, CAA calls observations from the company on the issue
and the possible redress that can be granted to the complainant. If the
respondent is willing to offer a fair redress to the complainant, the
problem can be settled at the 1st step.
* Call both parties for a negotiation
During the negotiation discussion CAA acts as a mediator and guides
the parties to reach an amicable settlement. Our experience shows that
negotiation is an effective method to explore better solutions for
consumer problems. Our aim is to achieve a win win solution for consumer
as well as for the trader.
* Conduct an Inquiry
If the negotiation discussion fails and the complaint fulfils the
legal requirements then the complaint is forwarded to conduct an inquiry
under section 13 of the Act. After conducting the inquiry, the Authority
can order the manufacturer or the trader to comply with the following:
1. To replace the defective product;
2. To refund the amount paid for a defective product;
3. To pay compensation to the aggrieved party.
How to contact us:
CAA is located at 1st and 2nd Floor, CWE Secretariat, No. 27,
Vauxhall Street, Colombo 2.
Mailing address: Director General, Consumer Affairs Authority, P.O.
Box 1581, Colombo.
Telephone: 011-2393495, 011-2445897, 011-2393577, Hot line:
011-2321696, Fax: 011-2399148, 060-2137182, 011-2399149, email: [email protected],
Chandrika Thilakaratne, Director,
Consumer Affairs and Information, CAA.
If a supermarket attracts you and you like to spend time there, we
just warn you of the trap: Donât be lured in to buying more than you
ever wanted, needed, thought, planned or dreamt of. The tips here would
prove an eye-opener to you and an ethical warning to âthemâ.
1. Avoid a shopping basket. You tend to fill them up with products
you never wanted.
2. When a store promises lower prices, check out for the weight
marked on the packet. It may be less. The actual weight may also be less
than the claim on the pack. Avoid products priced irrationally like Rs.
4.99 instead Rs. 5.
3. â50% offâ is deference from âup to 50% offâ and better than the
âbuy one get one freeâ syndrome. These offers make you consume more of a
product than you normally would.
4. Looking for cheaper alternatives? Look lower down the shelves. For
shopping malls, âeye level is by levelâ. Children would find lower
shelves stuffed with their products.
5. We look as we read and write - left to right. Supermarket keep the
cheaper items on the right. Costliest ones are found on the left.
6. Recently reduced price is another fake bargain. The rates were
never actually so high. We buy because it appears to be a bargain.
7. Essential items and popular ones are always kept in the middle of
the aisles. It ensures that we go through all the other products before
even sighting the intended purchase. Supermarkets bank on our impulse to
8. Reward cards are generously offered to make us spend more once we
own the card. It is not to help us save money but to get us buying
products we donât normally buy.
Competition Promotion Division / 22nd May 2007. (Courtesy: The