Consumer Law Thailand
Consumer Law aims to protect consumers while they deal with business entrepreneurs.
Ralph Nader, an American activist and Lawyer, helped to develop this field of law in the United States, in the automobile industry. Governments then joined in and passed Laws specifying rules governing consumer consent and safety.
Consumer Protection Law is a set of rules aiming to protect the individuals against certain forms of sales. It covers contract stipulations and rules against impulsive buying or pressure sales or similar tactics.
The following is an article from Bangkok Post published on September 4th, 2008.
"New Era of Thai Consumer Protection
CHAIPORN SUPVORANID, by invitation.
After a long history of failed attempts to overhaul the consumer protection system in Thailand, consumer protection and product liability laws are rapidly moving into a new era.
Two significant laws acting as the foundation of this new era of consumer protection have already been passed, one now in effect and the other to become effective in February 2009.
These two laws provide greater protection to consumers by reducing numerous obstacles in moving through a complex legal system, as well as facilitating consumers' ability to claim for damages arising from products, services and even professional services.
The laws' introduction will undoubtedly change the way of doing business in Thailand. Some operators may view the laws as a risk and burden, others may view them as an opportunity to gain a competitive advantage. Regardless of how operators view these changes, there is no choice other than to understand the implications of the new laws and prepare for the challenges ahead.
The first law is the Act on Court Proceedings for Consumer Cases B.E. 2551 (2008), generally known as the "Consumer Cases Act", which came into effect with respect to cases filed with the court after Aug 24, 2008. As its name suggests, this law relates to the rules governing court proceedings. Consumers in the past faced several obstacles in initiating an action against a business.
The former court proceedings were time-consuming and difficult to for consumers lacking legal resources and funds to navigate. Furthermore, damages awarded were normally minimal.
As a result, consumers took alternative recourse by attempting to draw media attention to their causes and force business operators to make compensation. This highly publicised form of action was seen by many as damaging to the image of the nation and the credibility of the legal system.
To address this ineffective process, the new Act provides simpler, quicker and cheaper proceedings, as well as empowering the court to award a broader range of damages.
This Act also introduces several new concepts into the Thai legal system such as punitive damages, compulsory recall, replacement remedy, new evidence rule, effect of the judgment on the following cases and piercing the corporate veil.
The Consumer Cases Act applies to all cases arising from the consumption of Products and Services and cases under the Product Liability Act. This means cases between consumers and business operators with respect to the sale of all kinds of goods, sale of condominium units, construction agreements, hire-purchase agreements, leasing, loans between banks and consumers, credit card services, medical services, hotel services, accounting services, insurance, etc. are all consumer cases which are subject to the new consumer friendly proceedings under the Consumer Cases Act.
Some scholars estimate that 70% to 80% of normal cases will now fall under the ambit of this new law, hence facilitating the filing of cases and increasing the chances of obtaining more significant damage awards. This clearly underscores the impact this Act will have on the business landscape and the challenges that lie ahead for business operators.
The second law is The Act on Liability for Injuries from Unsafe Products, B.E. 2551 (or the so called "Product Liability Act"), which will cover products sold after Feb 21, 2009.
In today's world of high technology, consumers are often unable to understand the manufacturing and design of the products they purchase. As well, many low-quality products from foreign countries are imported to and sold on the Thai market. Former legislation failed to provide adequate protection to consumers from damages sustained as a result of unsafe products. As such, the time is ripe for reform to product liability laws in Thailand.
Chaiporn Supvoranid is a partner of the law firm Baker & McKenzie"