ASEAN High-Level Principles on Consumer Protection
The ASEAN High-Level Principles on Consumer Protection (AHLP) are intended to support AMS in their efforts to improve consumer protection as ASEAN launches the AEC. They provide the direction for a broad framework on consumer protection for ASEAN. They also provide a consistent context for ASEAN laws and arrangements and, in so doing, promote a common base level of cooperation and exchange of experiences and best practices. The Principles also have the purposes of:
- Setting benchmarks on key aspects of consumer protection;
- Address legislative and information gaps as a basis for the modernization of consumer protection legislation
- Provide an agreed set of criteria for peer reviews and peer learning that enhances regional cooperation and convergence in policy.
The AHLP thus constitute a broad framework of sound practices relevant to all ASEAN Member States. Broad applicability of the high-level principles, however, does not mean a one-size-fits-all approach to consumer protection. Application of these principles should be proportionate to the level of development and tailored to the scale and scope of its markets and consumer interests over the course of the ASAPCP 2025 and beyond.
ASEAN High-Level Principles:
Principle 1 – Enforcement of Consumer Protection Laws are Fair, Consistent, Effective and Proportionate
This principle calls for the adoption of up-to-date, comprehensive and flexible consumer protection legislations in all AMSs, which should deal with all current and emerging consumer problems. AMS should ensure that consumer protection agencies are equipped with the legal powers, necessary skills and competencies to implement the laws in accordance with best practice criteria. Risk-based methodologies should be utilised by consumer protection agencies at best to direct resources where they can have the maximum impact.
Principle 2 – Consumers are Equipped with the Skills, Knowledge, Information and Confidence to Exercise their Rights
In addition to ensuring that consumers are provided with comprehensible, accurate and relevant product information, there is a need to raise the awareness of individual consumers about their rights under existing consumer legislations by enhancing advocacy work of key stakeholders. The relevant agencies and consumer associations should also provide consumers with as much information as possible on their rights and responsibilities and how they can seek redress.
Principle 3 – Consumers are Protected from Harmful Goods and Services
Ensuring consumers’ access to safe goods and services should be a collective effort of governments, businesses and consumers. Governments should adopt appropriate measures, including laws and safety regulations to ensure that products are safe for consumption and use. Governments and businesses should apply and actively comply with the national and international standards in order to ensure the safety of consumers in relation to the use of products. They should be pro-active and undertake the necessary actions to provide redress and remove harmful products from circulation. Consumers should be made knowledgeable with regards to recognizing hazardous products.
Principle 4 – Consumers Have Access to Appropriate and Convenient Sources of Advice and Redress including Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)
It is essential that consumers have access to information to enable them to make informed choices and ready access to affordable and easy-to-use dispute resolution arrangements. This principle calls for AMS to establish in-house complaints and redress systems by businesses, national consumer complaint centres by consumer associations, small claim courts, and online dispute resolution (ODR) mechanisms inter alia; as well as to provide for adequate administrative penalties to act as deterrent against violations of consumer protection legislations.
Principle 5 – Consumers Understand the Impact of Consumption Decisions on the Shared Environment
Informed consumers have an essential role in promoting consumption that is environmentally, economically and socially sustainable, including through the effects of their choices on producers. AMS should promote better understanding of such impacts through the development and implementation of policies for sustainable consumption and the integration of those policies with other public policies. It is also essential that AMS act proactively to help consumers understand the environmental impacts of their purchasing decisions and protect consumers from misleading information.
Principle 6 – Strong Consumer Advocacy is Promoted
The consumer voice should be heard by governments and consumer representation must be effective. Governments should seek consumer views before decisions are taken on relevant industrial, trade and social policy issues. They should ensure that the development of consumer policies is based on sound evidence and should put additional resources into research and regularly poll consumers directly.
Principle 7 – High Levels of Cooperation between Different Levels of Government and with Business and Other Stakeholders
This principle calls for AMS to adopt, at the national level, a general consumer protection policy and strategy as well as planning. This can then feed down to planning at the individual organisation level with each part of the consumer protection system understanding its role and what it can contribute overall. Only with a more ‘joined-up’ approach within the governments, it would be possible to interact in a meaningful way with non-governmental bodies and the business community; and with counterparts across the ASEAN region.
Principle 8 – Consumers in E-commerce are Protected
This principle calls for AMS to conduct regular reviews of existing consumer protection laws and practices to determine amendments or additional subsidiary legislations needed to be implemented to provide effective protection to consumers on electronic commerce. Consumers should be informed about potential security and privacy challenges they may face in e-commerce and m-commerce and the measures which can be used to limit the risks. Specialized dispute resolution mechanisms should be established, including on-line mechanisms, to handle cross-border transactions and provide the consumers with fair outcomes.