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Empowering and Protecting Consumers

Empowering consumers to take charge of their purchase decisions by giving them the information through the Penggunabijak application, was amongst the initiatives by the government to instill a smart consumer culture in a sustainable way. This was discussed in a dialogue held between the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA), Department of Economic Planning and Statistics, Ministry of Finance & Economy and undergraduates at the UBD School of Business and Economics recently. 

The dialogue session also discussed in depth on how the global market prices of key raw materials have impacted the key food prices domestically and mitigating measures undertaken by the government such as subsidies of essential goods, as well as enforcement activities by the Department of Consumer Affairs in its price control, price monitoring and consumers protection activities in upholding consumer welfare in Brunei Darussalam. 

Focusing on the theme, ‘information empowers consumers’, the dialogue introduced some of the core enforcement activities required by the Price control Act and the work under the Consumer Protection Fair Trading Order. While the Price Control Act allows maximum price setting on specific essential goods under the law, the consumer protection law outlines the obligations for businesses to be transparent and ethical when dealing with consumers, for example, making false or misleading claim about goods, services, sales activities and prices. The Consumer Protection Order also provides rights to consumer to take disputes to the Small Claim Tribunal for compensation. 

In 2022, 374 cases were received by the DCA, DEPS with 99.5% resolve rate. Nearly 80% of the complaints filed officially were related to price issues. While some may not be under the scope of the law, a high proportion of which was related to inconsistent price display under the Price Display Order. The Department also facilitates negotiation in consumer disputes and refer consumers to the Small Claim Tribunal. 

The session also discussed at length on the factors that have contributed to food prices increase and how the supply value chain has been affected with the rise in the costs of key raw materials of essential food such as cereal grains, sunflower seeds, urea due to geopolitical tension and climate challenges, hence, affecting the costs and prices of essential food such as chicken, cooking oil and vegetables. To address this cost-increase inflation driven by the global market, apart from subsidies provided by the government, price monitoring and price control effort, the government and agencies have taken steps to mitigate price increase with more sustainable measures by working with the private sector in diversifying import sources or substitutes to ensure supply stability and boosting local production to reduce high reliance on import and to ensure food security.

The legislative powers to undertake enforcement actions must be complemented with consumer education as prevention is more sustainable to cope with the fast-changing marketplace, especially with technology changing the way businesses are conducted. More new consumer protection issues are also emerging which may be complex and cross-cutting, calling for collaboration and cooperation with sector regulators. 

The dialogue session led by Dayang Heidi Farah Sia binti Abdul Rahman, Acting Deputy Director General of the DEPS concluded with the key message that while the government will continuously make effort to enhance its consumer protection regime, business compliance and empowered consumers who know their rights and responsibilities also play an equally important role to co-create a better marketplace for Brunei, towards achieving the socio-economic goals of the Wawasan 2035. 


Department of Consumer Affairs 

Department of Economic Planning and Statistics 

Ministry of Finance and Economy