ASEAN Product Liability and Consumer Product Safety Regulation: Comparing National Laws and Free Trade Agreements
35 Pages Posted: 11 Feb 2015 Last revised: 18 Jun 2015
Date Written: February 7, 2015
Consumer product safety is a major contemporary concern for developing, middle-income and developed economies. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), through its Committee on Consumer Protection (ACCP), has recognised this as a priority topic for international collaboration, as trade in goods accelerates through the region and with its major trading partners world-wide. This paper uncovers already significant harmonisation in substantive product liability law enacted across ASEAN member states. However, strict liability regimes are still missing in several states (both developed and developing) and anyway undermined in practice by problems for consumers in accessing courts or other effective dispute resolution mechanisms, especially for small-value and/or mass claims. Combined with variable media coverage of product safety failures within ASEAN member states, there is scope therefore to enhance minimum standards through generic consumer safety regulation by public authorities. The comparative analysis reveals even more progress in introducing minimum protections, such as powers to ban unsafe goods, set mandatory safety standards, and order or conduct recalls; but some national laws are recent, difficult to enforce or lacking in coverage. In particular, there is a gap across ASEAN member states in terms of requirements on suppliers to notify national regulators even when conducting voluntary recalls, let alone serious accidents and/or risks – as required now in major Asia-Pacific economies as well as in the EU. Reforms to national laws to fill this gap would also help connect ASEAN member state consumer affairs officials with counterparts abroad. There are already growing opportunities to do so via information-sharing and capacity-building provisions increasingly found in FTAs concluded by individual ASEAN member states and ASEAN itself with third countries, and consumer affairs officials should be aware of and involved in such procedures.
Keywords: consumer law, Asian law, comparative law, Thai law, product liability, international economic law, dispute resolution
JEL Classification: K10, K30, K33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation