Fri, Nov 01, 2013 - Page 3 News List

Victims’ group proposes center for food consumers

FOOD PROTECTION:A human rights group said the rights of consumers are easily overridden by firms, which are able to spend money and time on lawsuits

By Alison Hsiao  /  Staff reporter

The Taiwan Victim Human Rights Association yesterday proposed the establishment of a “food consumer protection center” to help consumers during food scandals.

Voicing concern about the lack of mediation and compensatory mechanisms for consumers who have been affected by tainted or substandard food, the association called for the establishment of a protection center supported by the government at a press conference held by Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Wu Yi-chen (吳宜臻).

“The center can be set up in parallel to the Securities Investors and Futures Investors Protection Center, the establishment of which was authorized by the Securities Investors and Futures Traders Protection Act [證券投資人及期貨交易人保護法],” Wu said.

Besides mediation and consultation, the investors protection center “handles investor complaints, files class-action lawsuits on behalf of investors and manages an investor compensation fund,” the center says on its Web site.

Association deputy president Liou Cheng-Wuu (劉承武) said that the proposed center would serve as a mediation mechanism that could coordinate the efforts of various government departments, professionals and consumer groups to challenge corporations.

Liou said that state coffers are not granted priority to receive the fines collected from companies found to have violated laws.

“Consumers, who are the direct victims, are entitled to compensation. It is through compensating the consumers that restorative justice can be implemented,” Liou said.

“Rather than leaving consumers in disunity so that they can be easily appeased or negated in individual lawsuits, the proposed center would use its authority and knowledge to assist consumers in getting what they need without filing time-consuming lawsuits. It could also help them file a lawsuit if they are not satisfied with the mediated result,” Liou said.

“As the center gathers information and experience, it will benefit future cases,” he added.

According to the Consumer Protection Act (消費者保護法), only nongovernmental consumer protection groups can file group litigation on behalf of consumers and the consumer ombudsmen has no role to play.

“The proposed center could be composed of Food and Drug Administration [FDA] officials, consumer ombudsmen, pro bono and paid lawyers, and other professionals,” Liou said.

FDA official Liu Shu-fen (劉淑芬), who was at the press conference, said that amendments to the Act Governing Food Sanitation (食品衛生管理法) have been proposed and are expecting to clear the legislature so the act will guarantee the establishment of a “food safety fund,” which would be partly funded by fines and would subsidize consumers’ litigation fees and health risk assessments.

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