Over 26 thousand complaints from citizens about violations of consumer rights considered in Kazakhstan for six months of 2021

At the government session chaired by Prime Minister Askar Mamin, issues of consumer rights protection were considered. Minister of Trade and Integration Bakhyt Sultanov, First Deputy Chair of the Agency for Regulation and Development of the Financial Market Oleg Smolyakov reported on the work carried out in this direction.

As the Minister of Trade and Integration Bakhyt Sultanov noted, in the September Address to the people of Kazakhstan, Head of State Kassym-Jomart Tokayev highlighted important aspects of improving the quality of life of citizens. Protection of consumers' rights and provision of the internal market with safe and high-quality goods and services are effective measures and tools for achieving this goal.

To this end, the ministry is developing, improving and regulating internal trade, incl. through the instruments of technical regulation and standardization, as well as cross-sectoral coordination of the activities of state bodies in the field of consumer protection.

Thanks to the amendments to the legislation on consumer rights adopted last year, in particular:

  • Interdepartmental Council was created under the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan;
  • authorized body in the field of consumer protection is endowed with the functions of state control;
  • administrative liability for violations of consumer rights introduced;
  • 3-stage system for handling consumer complaints was built.

From Jan. 1, 2021, the Unified Information System for Receiving Consumer Appeals on the One Window Principle — e-tutynushy was launched. Its task is to concentrate all measures of consumer protection in one place and to ensure quick and unimpeded consumer access to any information for the purpose of effectively protecting his rights and legitimate interests.

The growth in the number of citizens' complaints about violations of consumer rights indicates not only the presence of problems in this area, but also a gradual increase in the level of consumer culture.

So, if the ministry considered 5,977 applications in 2019, then their number in 2020 increased to 20,919, and for 10 months of this year. exceeded last year's annual volume.

“The data speaks not only of the presence of problems in this area, but also of a gradual increase in the level of consumer culture. A similar situation with the growth of applications is observed in other state bodies. So, in 2019, about 30 thousand applications were received by state bodies, in 2020 — 48,876, for 6 months of this year considered 26,161,” Sultanov informed.

Questions that bother consumers, in general, are repeated from year to year: these are the spheres of housing and communal services, retail trade, medical, tourist services, communication services, and transport.

“The Head of State notes the importance of independent opinion polls. Therefore, I would like to note the results of sociological surveys on the issues of consumer rights protection, in which the Ministry has involved independent organizations. According to the survey, residents of the country were not satisfied with the services provided in the following industries: medical services — 46%, communication services — 36%, urban public transport — 35.7%. As you can see, the problems in the sphere of consumer rights protection in certain industries are of a systemic nature,” Sultanov said.

In this regard, there is a need for analysis of root causes by government agencies for the emergence of consumer dissatisfaction. The state is faced with the task of finding a balance between the interests of society and the business community.

In this regard, the transformation of the consumer rights protection system has begun. In this reform, technical regulation and standardization play an important role, which are inextricably linked to the consumer protection system, since these areas are aimed at ensuring the safety and quality of products and services provided to consumers.

Currently, about 3 thousand national standards for indicators of quality, safety of products and services in all areas have been developed and are in force, but their low application is observed in certain industries.

A sector of the economy needs special attention, in which the number of complaints / complaints is increasing from year to year, which indicates the need to develop new and update existing national standards, the observance of which will ensure consumer satisfaction with the quality and safety of goods and services.

Sectoral government agencies need to use references to current national standards in their laws and regulations, this is an important aspect in ensuring consumer protection.

The Head of State Kassym-Jomart Tokayev in his speech on Nov. 16, 2021, said at a meeting of the National Council of Public Confidence that consumer protection legislation is still imperfect and instructed to amend it aimed at comprehensive and effective consumer protection.

In this regard, the Ministry has begun work on amendments to the legislation on consumer protection. First, the issue of legislative consolidation of the status of the National Consumer Association in the law in the organizational and legal form of a non-profit organization is being worked out.

Second, as part of the amendments to the legislation, the institution of the ombudsman will be introduced, which will serve as the voice of the people and directly bring the existing systemic problems of industries where consumer rights are violated to the top officials of the state.

According to the results of a sociological survey, 56% of the respondents out of 20 thousand respondents supported the creation of the National Consumer Association and the Ombudsman Institution. It should be noted that similar institutions exist in Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, the USA and in a number of other countries.

Third, the extension of the basic principles of the consumer protection system to the sectoral legislation on consumer protection.

Fourth, the wishes of public associations on the need to restitution the norm of the law on the accrual of remuneration to public associations of consumers from the amount reimbursed to the consumer were taken into account.

Fifth, it is proposed to improve legal regulation in order to prevent violations of consumer rights in the e-commerce segment.

“A socially important draft law is being developed, aimed at solving urgent problems that every Kazakhstani faces every day. Currently, draft concepts of the draft law on consumer protection issues are posted on the Internet portal of open regulatory legal acts and are sent for approval in the state organs,” added Sultanov.

According to Oleg Smolyakov, First Deputy Chairman of the Agency for the Regulation and Development of the Financial Market of the Republic of Kazakhstan, one of the main tasks of the agency is to ensure an adequate level of protection of the interests of consumers of financial services, completeness and accessibility of information for consumers about the activities of financial organizations and the financial services they provide, as well as increasing the level of financial literacy and financial accessibility for the population.

“To ensure an appropriate level of protection of the interests of consumers of financial services at the legislative level, there is a requirement for financial institutions to notify the regulator about the proposed financial products. The obligation of the boards of directors of market entities was introduced to approve the maximum rates and tariffs for the offered financial services. Also, the maximum amount of penalties (fines and penalties) charged for violation of obligations by consumers on financial transactions by consumers has been determined,” Smolyakov said.

The relevant laws prohibit financial organizations to restrict the consumer's right to choose a financial service. Additionally, the procedure for settling disputes between financial organizations and consumers on the fulfillment of their own obligations, incl. through the institution of the financial ombudsman.

To ensure the completeness and accessibility of information for consumers about the activities of financial organizations and the financial services they provide, the laws establish the obligatory posting of this information on the Internet resource of a financial organization. At the same time, administrative responsibility is established for the publication of advertisements that do not correspond to reality.

To strengthen the protection of the rights of consumers of financial services in 2021, the agency initiated a block of legislative amendments and took regulatory measures. In May 2021, a law was adopted on the regulation of banking, microfinance and collection activities, which introduced:

  • a unified procedure for settling overdue debt of citizens on loans, mandatory for banks and MFOs;
  • a ban on the requirement by banks to pay remuneration, forfeit, commissions and other payments after 180 days of delay on all mortgage loans, as well as the accrual of interest on capitalized interest;
  • the grounds for writing off the blank balances of citizens on mortgage loans have been expanded;
  • the obligation of banks and MFOs to disclose information on nominal rates and GERP on issued loans was established;
  • additional restrictions for collectors were introduced.

On behalf of the Head of State, in order to protect the rights of citizens from illegal actions of collection organizations of the Agency for Regulation and Development of Financial Markets, additional measures are being worked out to tighten the regulation of collectors, including the introduction of administrative and criminal liability of employees of collection agencies proposed by the General Prosecutor's Office. To protect the rights of citizens from fraudulent transactions and to prevent the issuance of fictitious online microcredits in March this year, the agency has strengthened the procedures for identifying borrowers by introducing a biometric identification requirement. Additionally, mandatory two-factor identification has been installed. In October of this year the agency, together with the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the State Enterprise, signed an interdepartmental memorandum and an algorithm for identifying and investigating fraudulent loans, promptly writing off fictitious debts of borrowers.

To improve the level of financial literacy and financial accessibility, the Agency has identified the main priorities for the medium term, continued work on their implementation and taken preventive measures. So, in May 2020, the concept of improving financial literacy for 2020-2024 was adopted, which defines the key priorities, goals and objectives, target audiences and tools in the field of improving financial literacy.

“In pursuance of the directions of the concept, a single Internet portal for financial literacy Fingramota.kz has been operating since 2020, which helps consumers to understand the basic financial concepts and principles of financially competent behavior, to get acquainted with the proposed financial instruments, products and services, as well as the benefits associated with them. and risks. Additionally, since June last year, the Fingramota Online mobile application has been launched, which allows consumers to send requests to the regulator 24/7, report cases of financial fraud and questionable organizations,” Smolyakov said.

The Agency is carrying out extensive information and explanatory work. The agency's website contains over 370 information materials and interviews with agency leaders and specialists. On their basis, more than 1,100 materials were published in the media. For greater coverage of the population, especially in the regions, it is necessary to expand the access to the agency's materials for all media, using social media resources for this.

To increase financial inclusion, the agency has formed a working group on the availability and quality of financial services for persons with disabilities. The working group has developed guidelines and a memo on servicing persons with disabilities, containing the basic requirements for the design of sites, mobile applications and other remote services, requirements for the qualifications of employees and correct terminology in relation to persons with various physiological disorders.

To facilitate the access of persons with disabilities to banking services, the agency has drawn up a “Financial Inclusion Card” on the list of the most vital services. It presents bank branches that meet the needs of the most vulnerable category of citizens.

As a preventive measure to counter the involvement of citizens in dubious financial transactions with entities that have signs of illegal activity in the financial market in October this year. the agency has published a list of suspicious subjects. This list includes 56 organizations in whose activities signs of a financial pyramid have been identified and 65 persons in whose activities there are signs of providing financial services on the territory of the country independently and (or) with the involvement of intermediaries, without the presence of an appropriate license or permit.

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