Handling customer complaints and resolution failures

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Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of their rights in transactions with businesses as well as in the dispute resolution process.
handling customer complaints and resolution failures
For more complicated conflicts, arbitration or courts are deemed the next routes to a possible solution. Photo: Shutterstock

 

Almost a decade ago, the Law on the Protection of Consumers’ Rights took effect. The dissemination of the law and other relevant documents in the last 10 years has contributed to raising awareness of the whole society on this issue, and it stipulates consumer’s rights and modes of settling disputes between consumers and goods or service traders.

According to the law, the consumer has the right “to claim damages when a goods or service fails to meet standards or technical regulations or to reach the quality, quantity, utilities, prices, or other matters as notified, posted up, advertised, or committed by the goods or service trader.”

They also have a right to lodge a complaint or denunciation, or initiate or request a social organisation to initiate a lawsuit to protect his/her rights under this law and other relevant laws.

It adds that a dispute between a consumer and a goods or service trader shall be settled through negotiation, mediation, arbitration, or court.

According to published information from the Vietnam Competition and Consumer Authority (VCCA), the Ministry of Industry and Trade, about the activities of receiving, consulting and resolving consumer requests and complaints at the VCCA in 2020, about 90 per cent of consumer requests and complaints have been successfully resolved by negotiation between consumers and businesses. This is an effective method of dispute resolution, which saves time and costs for both consumers and businesses.

However, for complicated cases in which both parties cannot agree on a resolution, arbitration and court are the appropriate choices. Practically, arbitration is not popular due to limitations and shortcomings in procedures, time, as well as consumer’s perception of this agency; therefore, court is a more popular choice.

Burden of proof in civil cases on consumer right protection is regulated as follows. First, a consumer is obliged to provide evidence and prove in a civil case to protect his/her legitimate rights and interests under the law on civil procedures, except proving faults of a goods or service trader.

Next, a goods or service trader is obliged to prove that it does not commit faults causing damage. And lastly, a court shall decide on the party at fault in a civil case on consumer right protection.

Based on the above regulations, there are notable procedures for consumers and businesses in a consumer protection lawsuit.

First, when suing enterprises, consumers are obliged to provide sufficient evidence and proof to protect their legitimate rights and interests. Secondly, the enterprise is obliged to prove that it does not commit faults causing the damage.

If the court decides the enterprise commits fault, the enterprise is obliged to compensate the consumer according to the court’s judgment. In contrast, if it decides the enterprise does not commit fault, the parties fulfil the obligations under the judgement.

In practice, there is popular concern in the business community about the negative effect on the company’s reputation, brand, and bottom line due to the long lawsuit process while they are not guilty under court judgement. In this case, the business is obliged to prove the damage (if any) caused to its reputation, brand, and bottom line and then the court will make a decision.

It can be seen that court is the last choice when consumers and businesses have gone through a process of negotiation or mediation but cannot agree on a settlement. However, in reality, this method has many limitations and can adversely affect consumers and businesses.

Therefore, when a dispute arises, both parties can refer to some experiences for effective resolution. They can carefully study the Law on the Protection of Consumers’ Rights and its guiding documents, especially the contents of the rights of a consumer, obligations of a consumer, responsibilities of goods and services traders towards consumers, prohibited acts, modes of settling disputes between consumers and goods or service traders, and burden of proof in civil cases on consumer right protection.

They can also conduct negotiations as well as consult with state management agencies or social organisations on the protection of consumers’ rights to ensure the negotiation process has a legal basis and is highly effective. Consumers and businesses may contact the VCCA, local departments of Industry and Trade, and consumer protection associations at all levels for legal consultation.

Lastly, if a consumer sues a business, the parties refer to Article 42 of the Law on the Protection of Consumers’ Rights on burden of proof in civil cases on consumer right protection.

By Van Anh

Nguồn: Vietnam Investment Review

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