Vietnam consumer rights group fined for 'unlicensed' activity

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Ho Chi Minh City authorities have imposed a VND7.5 million (US$360) fine on a consumer protection group, saying it overstepped its bounds by publishing negative reports about five businesses.

The Ho Chi Minh City Department of Information and Communication said the Anti-Trade Fraud and Consumer Support Association (AFCA) violated its license, which does not allow it to run stories from news websites.

It said the city-based association websites and both cited reports from various news websites accusing five businesses of trade violations.

The alleged violators are Xuan Lan 727 Chemicals and Cosmetics Company, Viet An International Development and Investment JSC, Pham Gia Automobile Machinery Company, Dai Do Thanh Automobile Import and Export Company and Duy Loi Production Company.

All reports were accompanied by consumer complaints, punishment decisions from related authorities, and links to similar reports by leading local media agencies such as Thanh Nien, Tuoi Tre, Cong An Nhan Dan, Lao Dong, Vietnam News Agency, and VnExpress.

But the city information department said the reports did not cite sources clearly and that publishing such information is "unrelated" to the association's assigned duties.

One report said the city police and market managers discovered that Xuan Lan had been intentionally mislabeling its products.  Another said Viet An had been fined by the city administration for failing to fulfill hygiene requirements in food business and importing products with dubious labels.

Another said Dai Do Thanh had been accused by the State Bank of Vietnam of foreign exchange violations, by local labor authorities of salary system violations, and by the Vietnam Automobile Manufacturers' Association of illegally using its members' brands.

Duy Loi was said in another report to have ignored a customer's complaint concerning the quality of one of its products.

The association also said that representatives from Pham Gia slandered the association and the city Market Management Department after being denied membership.

The businesses filed complaints in June when the city Department of Interior Affairs ruled that the association had published "unconfirmed" information.

Binh Thanh District People's Court also summoned representatives from the association after the five filed lawsuits, but said that nobody showed up.

The association, located in the Cantavil Hoan Cau Building, 660A Dien Bien Phu Street, Binh Thanh District, has said on its website it employs an advisory board of lawyers and it has done nothing illegal.

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