Agencies, associations, social organisations, businesses and consumers must become aware of the new Vietnamese law on consumer rights' protection that will become effective on July 1, a ministry official has said.

Dr Vu Thi Bach Nga of the Ministry of Industry and Trade said the law, passed by the National Assembly late last year, consists of six chapters and 51 articles, covering almost every aspect of consumers' rights protection.

Nga, head of the Consumer Protection Committee under the Vietnam Competition Authority, said the law would be an effective legal tool to protect consumers from fraudulent practices.

"We all know about the use of hazardous DEHP in food and 12 types of soft drinks. Subscribers of mobile phone services receive spam messages every day. Deceptive promotional adverts occur in many places. Vietnamese consumers experience every level of consumers' right violations," she said.

"Consumers themselves have not been aware of their rights. They should take action if necessary as the law covers almost every aspect related to these kinds of violations."

The law deals with violations of labelling, trademarks and price, and declaration of harmful ingredients in products like cigarettes. In addition, provisions are included that cover warranties and replacement of spare parts on products. Violations of contracts and general transactions are also dealt with in the law.

"Consumers have the right to clearly know the information on substitute spare parts of each item they buy because some parts are rare and expensive," Nga said.

The law also requires responsibility of the third party, which provides consumer information, and services for consumers that could be potentially harassing, such as numerous text messages sent via mobile phone providers.

"The media is affected by law on consumers' rights as well," Nga said. "Consumers can sue a newspaper for printing inaccurate information about the efficacy of certain drugs or medicine without checking the facts."

The law also requires that companies provide temporary models for products that are being repaired.

"Even for a luxury car, you have the right to demand a temporary substitute for the car that you sent to the warranty centre. The law requires that," she said.

Consumers could ask for a new one if the purchased item needed three repairs during the warranty period, she added.

Lan made her remarks at a workshop held by MUTRAP III, a multilateral trade assistance project in its third phase implemented by the European Commission to help Vietnam prepare for, carry out and follow up on WTO commitments.

They organised three similar workshops in HCM City, Da Nang and Hanoi to give information to agencies, organisations and individuals nationwide.

"Now consumers have their rights. It means that there must be someone else to help them comply with the law," Nga said.

Le Danh Vinh, Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade, told the workshop that a decree serving as a guideline to compliance had been submitted to the Prime Minister for approval.

Nga said People's Committees at provincial, district and ward levels would have the authority to penalise violators.

"Enforcement of the law will take time as agencies, associations, social organis-ations, producers and consumers will have to become aware of it and act accordingly in regards to compliance," said Do Gia Phan of the Vietnam Standard and Consumer Association. /.