The recent case in which a man was imprisoned for ‘blackmailing’ a drink maker with one of the company’s products that contained a fly has left Vietnamese consumers worried about how to respond ‘safely and legally’ if they are in a similar situation.
The Vietnam Competition Authority on Friday proved that it had listened to consumers by issuing a detailed guidance on what should be done to legally settle a dispute on product quality between customers and manufacturers.
The VCA, under the Ministry of Industry and Trade, said clearly on its website that the guidance was issued in the wake of the case of Vo Van Minh, who was given a seven-year jail term after losing the fly-in-bottle lawsuit against Tan Hiep Phat Group on December 18.
Minh had demanded the company to pay VND500 million (US$23,300) to buy his silence over an unopened bottle of Tan Hiep Phat’s Number 1 energy drink that contained a fly, but the company eventually called on police to arrest the consumer in January this year.
“It cannot be denied that this case has left many consumers worried and anxious,” the VCA said.
The competition watchdog asserted that in case of a product quality dispute, consumers have the right to either negotiate for compensation with the producers; take them to court; or report their wrongdoing to state agencies and the press.
Whatever solution consumers choose, the crucial factor is that their complaints have adequate ground and evidence, and consumers should not threaten to defame the manufacturers, according to the VCA.
The competition agency said that negotiation has proven to be the most common and effective solution consumers can use to handle a dispute with the manufacturers.
“Before starting negotiation, consumers should collect enough documents that can prove their transaction with the manufacturers, such as invoice, receipt, warranty agreement, or photos of the defect products,” the guidance reads.
The manufacturers are required to compensate for any quality defects on their products, which may even threaten consumers’ life, health and assets, the authority said, citing the law on consumer right protection.
The most important issue in a negotiation between a consumer and a producer is the compensate value, which the VCA said has no minimum or maximum rate as per the law.
“The consumers have the right to suggest the compensation, and the law does not set any ceiling on how it should be,” it said.
However, it is advised that the compensation be suggested on a reasonable, legal and evident basis, according to the guidance.
Consumers should not threaten to defame or destroy the reputation or assets of the manufacturer if their requests are not met, which is seen as a breach of the law, the VCA underlined.
In the case of Minh, he first asked for VND1 billion ($46,600) and later agreed to halve the demanded compensation. The court has decided that it was an unreasonable request, which led to his imprisonment on charge of “extortion of assets.”
“Consumers should therefore negotiate as per the civil code and the law on consumer right protection and relevant legal documents,” the VCA said.
It is also recommended that consumers contact the VCA for consultancy and advice before taking any action against the manufacturers.
The VCA guidance came at a time when it is now a joke in Vietnam to say that every fly found inside a Tan Hiep Phat bottle will result in seven years in jail.
There is also a caricature that mockingly suggests people try their best to keep it a secret if they do detect another case of a ‘fly-in-a-bottle.'