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New Thai Law Streamlines Consumer Complaints

Sep 1, 2008
On the 23rd of August, a new Thai law came into effect, known as the Consumer Case Procedures Act. Prior to this Act's inception, it had been logistically and legally difficult for consumers top make complaints against corporations, with travel, court costs and time creating significant difficulties for consumers. This new law makes provisions for the location of court cases and who is responsible for paying court costs, as well as the handling of repeat complaints against companies.

Teeravath Chantarasomboon is director of legal affairs at the Office of the Consumer Protection Board (OCPB). He believes that the new laws "will be fairer to consumers. It will force entrepreneurs, which have more bargaining power than consumers, to prove their cases". Mr Teeravath pointed to previous cases where, although Thai law may have supported the consumer, they were unable to receive compensation or to continue with their complaint because they had to travel to civil courts from the home jurisdictions. This effectively made justice out of the reach of many, especially those in rural areas.

Companies also need to be aware of this Thai business law, especially as regards their policies and procedures. One important adjustment to Thailand's consumer law with this new act is the fact that if a repeat complaint is brought against a company, where the company previously lost the case, there will be no trial. The judgment of the new case would be based on the previous complaint, with similar penalties or compensation applied.

Business law in Thailand will also be affected by the reduction in the number of courts that will handle consumer complaints - the court of first instance and one appeal court are the only avenues open to businesses and consumers who disagree. This is one measure which will help with overcrowding of the legal system in Thailand. Another important streamliner for the legal process is the fact that only one postponement of 15 days or less will be allowed, so companies will need to be efficient at gathering required documents and evidence - as will consumers.

The new Thai law had its first test recently, when former Bangkok senator Chirmsak Panthong complained about lax security, suing the director of Nakhom Si Thammarat provincial airport, and the budget airline Nok Air.

This complaint was under the new Thai law's provision that affected people can file charges against substandard goods and service providers in court. Mr Chirmsak said that check-in staff had not searched passengers for weapons before they boarded the aircraft. Mr Chirmsak said ''I told the staff member that such [lax security measures] would put our lives at high risk. That female staff member said I had to take risks today [Aug 16]. I didn't feel good and was worried as there were 150 passengers on board the flight. If someone had hidden explosives, we would have died en masse,''

''This is a case of negligence and a reckless act that might cause serious damage to the lives and property of passengers. I decided to bring the case to the court's attention", he continued. The court reprimanded the airline.

Under Thailand's new consumer laws, complainants do not have to pay court fees, except if the damages sought are deemed to be excessive, or the suit is found to be unreasonable. Even if complainants lose the suit, as long as the first two conditions are met, there will be no court fees charged to them. However, check with your Thailand legal service, as companies are required to pay court costs in the event that they lose the case.

The new laws are widely hailed as levelling the playing field and making consumer law in Thailand much fairer.
About the Author
For nearly 30 years, Bamrung Suvicha Apisakdi Law Associates (BSA Law) has focused on providing reliable legal advice and services to the Thai and foreign business community in Thailand. We provide international standards of legal services while retaining the customs of the Thai business culture
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