|Inadequate Setting for Effective Local Government Level Consumer Administration|
Inadequate Setting for Effective Local Government Level Consumer Administration
-Proactive role in regional consumer administration needed-
According to the Korea Consumer Agency (www.kca.go.kr)'s survey on consumer administration at the local government level [si (city), gun (county), and gu (district)], the level of awareness was lower and infrastructure was weaker than that of provincial/metropolitan governments. In 2012 and 2014, the KCA surveyed consumer administration at the provincial and metropolitan government levels, but this is the first time that local governments were surveyed.
▣ Consumer administration awareness low and infrastructure weak
In Korea, local consumer administration is carried out by 17 provincial and metropolitan governments; however, local governments need to play a more active role to realize local-oriented consumer administration. Even the Consumer Framework Act provides that provincial and metropolitan governments as well as local governments are responsible for pursuing consumer administration.
However, based on the survey, the level of understanding and awareness of local consumer administration among local government employees in charge of consumer affairs was low (2.54 points out of 5) compared to provincial and metropolitan government employees (3.90 points).
Local governments also lacked infrastructure required to pursue consumer administration. In detail, 69 out of 226 (30.5%) local governments had consumer ordinances* containing details on consumer affairs administration, only 2.5% operated consumer affairs teams, and only 3.5% employed those exclusively responsible for consumer administration.
* As of June 2015, whether local governments had consumer ordinances determined through the Enhanced Local Laws and Regulations Information System (ELIS; www.elis.go.kr).
Among the local governments surveyed, 18.5% operated consumer counseling centers and 15.1% assigned consumer counselors in their jurisdiction, which is not enough to provide the necessary assistance to local consumers. In Japan, the percentage of consumer counseling centers established and counselors assigned at local government levels stand at 99.8% and 60.3%, respectively.
▣ Local governments need to play a more active role in consumer administration
Meanwhile, consumer affairs handled at the local government level mostly relate to "regulations on special transactions such as door-to-door sales and electronic commerce" (48.9%) followed by "consumer counseling and redress" (19.5%), "provision of consumer information" 9.5%), and "educating consumers" (8.3%).
* Portion of consumer affairs administration calculated by taking into account subject factors (such as manpower, budget, time, and effort) needed to handle consumer affairs.
In order to strengthen the rights and interests of local consumers, local governments need to play a more active role in administering consumer affairs. Strategic measures are required at the si/gun/gu level by considering different features such as population, fiscal capacity, regional size, accessibility, etc.
To this end, the importance of consumer administration and expertise need to be underlined for local governments through support and cooperative efforts by the KCA as well as provincial/metropolitan governments and local consumer organizations, and through the establishment of standard consumer ordinances.
Over the long run, the central and local governments need to work together to ensure that consumer affairs are handled on a local level such as onsite counseling and handling of complaints related to door-to-door sales, and resolving safety issues related to local food companies.
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