On 31 August 2020, the Consumer Protection Act was published, which sets out the rights and protections granted to consumers, and prescribes duties and responsibilities of suppliers of goods and services in the Maldives. The key areas covered in the Act are as follows:
Standard of Goods and Services Supplied to Consumers
- Suppliers that supply goods are obligated to meet the standards set out in the Act. Some of the notable requirements include proof of ownership of goods, goods are of an acceptable standard, any defects must be notified to the consumer, and the price of goods supplied must be clearly visible to consumers. The Act also provides that goods supplied need not be sold at the publicly available price provided such goods are sold under contract, or a separate price is agreed upon between the parties to the contract.
- Services supplied by enterprises must be provided by personnel qualified and competent to provide such services. Services purchased by a consumer must be utilised within a reasonable period of time but for services rendered under a contract with a predetermined period. Similar to the standards set for price of goods under the Act, the price of services supplied must be commensurate to the service supplied, except for services rendered under contract.
Rights of Consumers of Goods and Services
- The Act provides that Consumers have the right to return, exchange, or receive equivalent value of the goods purchased, for goods which do not meet the standards set out in this Act. Further, consumers may seek damages from suppliers that contravene any provisions of this Act by submitting the matter to the ombudsman appointed under this Act.
- Consumers of services have the right to sue for damages from suppliers which provide services which do not meet the standards set out in the Act provided that the standard of service was not met due to the service providers failure, and not owing to the fault of third party involved in provision of the service, or due to an act of god.
Ministry can Prohibit the Supply of Certain Goods or Services
The Ministry may prohibit the supply of certain goods or services where the supply of such goods or services are deemed to be unsafe.
Ministry can Set Price Controls
The Ministry is authorised to set price controls on goods or services based on the economic situation of the country. Under such circumstances, the Ministry is empowered to control the quantity of goods, price, and establish different prices for the goods based on the region that such goods are supplied.
Misleading Information, Statements or Advertising of Goods and Services Prohibited
- The Act expressly prohibits suppliers that supply goods or services to perform any action or make a statement that may be construed as misrepresentation or fraud, and engage in bait advertising.
- Suppliers are also prohibited from accepting payment for goods or services that they knowingly cannot provide the consumer.
Prohibition of Unfair Terms
The Act prohibits the inclusion and operation of unfair terms in any instrument – contract, notice, or similar type of document – for the provision of goods and services. Consumers are entitled to not comply with such terms of the supplier.
Online Businesses must conform to standards set out under the Act
Online suppliers must meet the goods and services standards set out under the Act. Online suppliers are also required to expressly state cancellation procedures, if any, for goods or services purchased.
Appointment of a Consumer Ombudsman
A Consumer Ombudsman shall be appointed in accordance with the Act, and shall be responsible for establishing a mechanism to enable reporting of violations under the Act. The Ombudsman will further be responsible for investigating, and taking action against enterprises that contravene the Act.
The Act will be effective from 1 March 2021.