Sri Lanka consumer protection activism seen weak

Teejay Lanka Chairman Bill Lam (left) and CEO Pubudu De Silva

Mar 20, 2012 (LBO) – Sri Lankan consumer protection activism remains weak because of a lack of awareness and will, leaving consumers vulnerable to the lobbying power of big business and utilities, an official said. The Public Utilities Commission plans to step up its campaign to educate consumers this year.

“After making people aware, we need a mechanism to ensure consumer societies are sustainable. Without consumer societies, we are not serving the people, only powerful utilities and lobbies. We don’t hear the voice of the people to serve them.” Dhamitha Kumarasinghe, director general of the Public Utilities Commission, said consumers are generally unaware of their rights and attempts to form consumer protection societies had not been as successful as desired.

“The issue is consumers are not aware of their rights and obligations, especially related to natural monopoly utilities,” he said.

“Consumer societies are easy to form but not easy to sustain because many consumers are either not aware of their rights or have no time to participate.”

He said it was difficult to encourage consumer activism in the country which was needed for effective regulation, while acknowledging that p