The conceptualisation of this project studying Unfair Trade Practices in select ASEAN countries was inspired by the history of CUTS – the Matchbox scam.
What’s in a Matchbox?
The “matchbox scam” was simply the fact that a matchbox which was purported to hold 50 matches only held about 35 to 40. Of these, several of them were of such poor quality that they either would not strike, due to a lack of the striking material, or broke so easily that they would not withstand being dragged across the striking or any other surface to be ignited. This essentially rendered approximately one-third of the already-short count of matches unusable.
The efforts of the founders of CUTS to report this to authorities was met with extreme indifference. However, instead of just ignoring the problem, the CUTS founders decided to provide an institutional voice to consumer grievances by forming a society. It is thus possible to say that CUTS International today has its genesis in an Unfair Trade Practice by Indian matchbox producers reported 27 years ago.
Unfair Trade Practices (UTPs)
UTPs encompass a broad array of torts, all of which involve economic injury brought on by deceptive or wrongful conduct. The legal theories that can be asserted include claims such as trade secret misappropriation, unfair competition, false advertising, palming-off, dilution and disparagement. UTPs can arise in any line of business and frequently appear in connection with the more traditional intellectual property claims of patent, trademark and copyright infringement. Specific types of UTPs prohibited in domestic law depend on the law of a particular country.
UTPs not only harm the consumers, but also victimise other market players in the process, especially the smaller enterprises, and more importantly, they may cause damage to the market as a whole as well. For this reason, there has been a fair amount of uncertainty across countries regarding how to deal with them, in theory as well as in practice. In some countries, UTPs fall within the purview of the competition statutes, in some others, that of the consumer protection one, and in some other cases, they are dealt with by a separate law/act.
In the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), UTPs have remained a low key for a multitude of reasons, hence this project.
Welcome to the UTPs in ASEAN Project!
This project would undertake research on issues related to UTPs in select ASEAN countries with a view to generate and support the relevant discussions/dialogues therein towards the final end of contributing to the development of a comprehensive legal and institutional framework on UTPs in the region that support and ensure equitable market outcomes.
Accordingly, empirical research on UTPs (their prevalence, nature and possible harms caused by them to business and consumer welfare, etc) would be undertaken, in addition to legal research on the relevant regulatory and institutional frameworks, as base for future discussions on the issues.
The perceptions and expectations of relevant stakeholder groups such as the government, the business and the consumer, would be captured through a survey process, an exercise aimed not only at providing inputs to the research and policy dialogue process, but also at raising the awareness of the general public on the issue and facilitating networking amongst interested parties. This would also create momentum from the bottom-up for ASEAN-wide discussions on UTPs.
Finally, the research output would be fed into the discussions of the ASEAN Experts’ Group on Competition through informal consultations and policy dialogues, a process which is expected to contribute to positive policy developments within respective ASEAN countries as well as at the regional level.
The project would be undertaken in five select ASEAN countries, namely Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam by research institutions in respective countries, under the coordination of the CUTS Hanoi Resource Centre (Vietnam) over a two-year period (2010-2012).
CUTS HRC also moderates a discussion forum on yahoo for the project.

CUTS In The World

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