Brunei fares well in ASEAN Consumer Empowerment Index

Azlan Othman

Brunei Darussalam is among the countries with the highest score in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Consumer Empowerment Index (ACEI).

A key initiative of the ASEAN Strategic Plan on Consumer Protection 2016 to 2025, the ACEI 2020 report aims to gauge the level of awareness and knowledge of consumers in terms of their rights, laws and ability to make informed decisions.

It showed Brunei consumers are moderately empowered with a score of 83 out of 130, the fourth highest score in the region.

The ACEI 2020 report showed Thailand’s consumers are empowered as the country got the highest score of 107, followed by Malaysian consumers who are considered moderately empowered with a 94.48 score and the Philippines with 93. Other countries with moderately empowered consumers are Brunei Darussalam (83), Vietnam (82.96) and Myanmar (80.95).

ASEAN consumers, on average, are moderately empowered with a score of 82.9. Scores are based on indicators categorised according to three main components – consumer awareness or knowledge, consumer skills or competencies and consumer behaviours or assertiveness.

On the category of awareness, the ACEI showed Brunei respondents are highly aware about business obligations but scored least with respect to knowing primary institutions, other organisations, consumer programmes, and available redress channels.

In terms of skills, respondents are knowledgeable in gathering information and assessing risks, detecting scams but scored low on financial skills and understanding labels. Meanwhile on behaviour, respondents scored highest with respect to seeking redress, making comparisons, and compliance but lower marks were scored on reporting issues and actively seeking information. The ASEAN Committee on Consumer Protection (ACCP) launched the Report of ASEAN Consumer Empowerment Index 2020 Pilot Project (ACEI 2020) recently, as envisioned under the ASEAN Strategic Action Plan for Consumer Protection 2016-2025.

The ACEI is a composite index calculated on a country level based on questionnaire-styled surveys to benchmark the national level of consumer empowerment in each ASEAN member state (AMS), against that of the entire region.

It is based on a set of key indicators which are equally weighted and grouped into three main components – Consumer Awareness; Consumer Skills; and Consumer Behaviour.

The regional index is calculated as the weighted average of the 10 country scores in accordance with the percentage of national sample size to total regional sample.

A total of 7,185 respondents across all member states participated in the survey, categorised according to four criteria namely; gender, location, age and education. The study acknowledged that due to limited resources, it was not possible for the pilot project to go for a full representative sample.

On the consumer awareness category, ASEAN consumers scored the highest on consumer rights and responsibilities. Nonetheless, there is a need to enhance the level of consumer awareness on redress mechanisms, and for consumer protection authorities to enhance its public advocacy and education programmes.

Meanwhile, on the consumer skills category, ASEAN consumers scored highest on numerical and financial skills, as well as the ability to detect scams and misleading advertisements. However, consumers will need to further engage on practising sustainable consumption.

Lastly, on the consumer behaviour category, ASEAN consumers have the highest tendency to compare products and read the terms and conditions before making a purchase. On the other hand, they are less likely to participate in consumer groups or associations, and contribute to policy-making or act as agent-of-change.

The survey shows that there is a positive correlation between the level of individual empowerment and the level of education.

The ACEI stands at 63.7 per cent meaning that across the region, on an average, consumers are moderately empowered.