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New law to empower consumers

Thai consumers will have more power to take legal action against producers of shoddy goods under a new product liability law, which will be effective from February next year.

However, the legislation will put small firms at a disadvantage, a recent seminar held by Krungthep Turakij newspaper was told.

Piengjai Kaewsuwan, president of Federation of Thai Industries' auto club, said car manufacturers, for example, would face more risks from product liability lawsuits filed by consumer groups.

Toyota Motor Thailand's executive Kamol Prasertnoppakul said it would be difficult to prove if a car was safe or not, as it involved the vehicle, driver and road conditions.

Damage would be huge if a model - which had been certified to meet some standards - was found unsafe. He proposed setting up a neutral body to handle litigation cases and claims, which Toyota was willing to support.

Pan Cosmetics general manager Pornchai Piriyabanjurd said that in essence the law would not create additional burden for manufacturers, particularly large players who could easily prove the safety of their products.

However, the magnitude of damage to these manufacturers will be huge if a product is found to be unsafe as one case could affect other products of the company in the market.

He also questioned the process to verify product safety. He urged the media to be discreet in reporting unproven claims as successful claims, due to the magnitude of damages.

Piti Kittithirapornchai, managing director of food supplement company TC Natural, said the law would not pose problems to large companies, which are financially strong enough to make additional investments to improve product quality.

However, there would be problems for small companies or even communities grouping together to produce indigenous products.

Theerawat Chandarasomboon of the Consumer Protection Office assured that the law would be fair to both consumers and manufacturers.

Manufacturers or original equipment manufacturers will be also jointly held liable for defects. In light of claims, they must shoulder the costs in proving safety. However, in case of misuse, consumers cannot seek compensation. Moreover, in case of mental and physical damage, the right to file claims will be limited only to the victims, not their relatives. Under the law, manufacturers will shoulder the responsibility of proving the safety of their products. There will be no cap in compensation payment, as that depends on the court judgement.

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