Since President Kennedy's proclamation, in 1962, that "consumer, by definition, includes us all", modern legal systems have increasingly dedicated their attention to consumer relations and rights. The impact of such legislation, however, is thought to reach much deeper than the immediate protection of consumers in their relations with business operators: consumer protection laws tend to increase consumers' confidence and, consequently, they serve as an important factor in increasing (or maintaining) consumption levels.
In a time where Macau is actively pursuing economic diversification and, in that direction, seeking to affirm itself as an international leisure and entertainment centre, the reinforcing of its (ineffective) consumer protection laws is a step towards enhancing the reputation of its legal system and its business operators. The new legislation now being tabled at the Legislative Assembly will produce a general layout for all consumers' relations relating to the marketing of goods and services in Macau (with a few exceptions, such as professional services, health services, gambling and securities trading). The new Bill will include an extensive regulation of consumers' rights. This will include highlighting the right of withdrawal from a contract during a cooling-off period and a particular focus on the consumers' right to information over products and services which will demand substantial efforts by retailers, service providers, importers, distributors, manufacturers and other manufacturing and distribution chain players. Other key matters to be addressed in the Bill include the prohibition of aggressive and unfair practices by business operators, a specific regulation on the sale (and other forms of supply) of consumer goods and services, which addresses product quality and product guarantees, and the regulation of the long-distance contracts (such as those entered via internet or mobile phone apps) and those executed outside the business premises of the operator.
Mechanisms to address consumer conflicts will also be created and the authority of the Consumer Council will be strengthened to adequately respond to an effective enforcement of the new legislation and the supervision of business operators.
As positive as this may seem, the wide and deep reach of the new legislation will have an important impact on businesses and their existing business ways and will demand a substantial effort to adapt to its requirements.
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