DCCA receives nearly 200 complaints following COVID-19

Azlan Othman

The Department of Competition and Consumer Affairs (DCCA) of the Department of Economic Planning and Statistics (JPES) received nearly 200 complaints, related to issues impacting consumers and businesses in Brunei Darussalam since March as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Seventy per cent of the complaints were made formally through Darussalam line 123, 90 per cent of the issues raised were related to product price increase (sanitising products and some grocery items).

The DCCA team has been responding promptly to formal complaints received to address areas of harm to consumers and advising businesses about their obligations and rights.

The department also introduced Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for consumers and businesses.

It was developed within the scope of the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Order, to provide guidance in addressing some of the immediate problems raised with regards to disruption of business services while facing the pandemic. The consumer law in Brunei covers business to consumer transactions.

The guide outlines consumer rights and business obligations relating to issues such as cancelled functions and events, pricing of goods and services, and charging subscription and membership fees when the business is not operating.

The DCCA encourages parties to play their roles in maintaining a healthy marketplace. While the DCCA protects consumers’ interests by ensuring fair business practices to honour the terms and conditions of their contracts with consumers, consumers are also encouraged to be patient and understanding as businesses are dealing with this unprecedented challenging time.

The DCCA encourages businesses to work with customers to find a mutually agreeable alternative arrangement wherever possible, such as providing partial refund, a credit note or voucher, or rescheduling to supply the services at a later date. Businesses are to be mindful of their obligation when handling these requests.

The DCCA suggested consumer concerns to be reported formally for an assessment through Consumer Hotline under Darussalam hotline 123 and the PenggunaBijak mobile app.