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Consumer protection in ASEAN’s roadmap to 2025

Regulatory frameworks overseeing product safety in Australia, the European Union, the United Kingdom and the United States are well-established. While the rules and regulations in each of these jurisdictions are evolving in response to new products and risks, there is a general understanding that these governments have safeguards and enforcement capabilities in place to protect consumers.

The same assurance is not always the case in other markets around the world. In the case of Southeast Asia, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) acknowledges that it has to improve. As the region strives to become a more attractive business market for global companies, the ASEAN outlined its commitment to providing “ASEAN consumers with world-class levels of consumer policy, institutions and laws” in its Capacity Building Roadmap for Consumer Protection for 2020-2025.

The Roadmap addresses several common global challenges related to product safety, including product recalls, consumer guarantees and warranties, consumer remedies and law enforcement to name a few.

From a product recall standpoint, the ASEAN acknowledged “a need for the adoption of quicker and more efficient systems for notification and recall of hazardous goods and services and for better regulations to empower consumer authorities to set standards.” The Roadmap also suggests that “statutory guarantees of minimum safety, quality, performance and durability are a core feature of effective consumer protection,” designating it as a priority.

Small steps have been made in that direction. The ASEAN launched a region-wide product recall portal to “strengthen product safety enforcement and build higher consumer confidence in the region.” ASEAN Member States Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam are among the contributors to the portal, demonstrating their commitment to overseeing recalls and strengthening product safety enforcement. But we expect far more activity on this portal as the recommendations outlined in the Capacity Building Roadmap are implemented.

ASEAN has the potential to be a growth opportunity for global business. The region has more than 600 million consumers. As a result, several leading markets around the world — including Australia, Germany and Japan — are supporting the region’s efforts to improve its focus on product and consumer safety. We expect their regulatory approach to provide inspiration for the future of consumer protection in the region.

While product recall and in-market remediation regulations may still be in their nascent stages, companies should be prepared for, and encouraged by, the focus the region is placing on product safety. As you develop and evolve your product recall, warranty management and in-market product management protocols, be assured that the evolving regulatory environment in the region will increase consumer confidence, resulting in an attractive business market for global companies. But keep in mind, the more sophisticated your regulatory environment becomes, the higher the reputational risk to your brand when something goes wrong.

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