Background: Strengthening consumer protection is an important component of the ‘Competitive Economic Region’ pillar of the ASEAN Economic Community Blueprint, and is central to ASEAN’s conception of a ‘people-oriented’ economic community. ASEAN has noted that the promotion of an efficient and effective marketplace involves developing the skills of consumers to improve their understanding of goods and services, which in turn contributes to increased confidence and healthy competition.
Sustineo was engaged to develop public awareness models for consumer protection relevant to the ASEAN region. This project aimed to support a systematic approach towards consumer education in ASEAN covering a range of consumer constituencies, issues, delivery systems and appraisal procedures. The key project outputs included models for enhancing awareness of consumer protection and guidelines for their use.
Approach: The Sustineo team’s approach focused on high quality research from leading academics in the field, and designing a theoretical framework to develop and adapt the most useful and conceptually rigorous public awareness models for consumer protection. This was complemented by extensive engagement with key stakeholders and constituents to ensure the products were as flexible and practical as possible to guarantee their relevance for a broad range of audiences.
The project commenced with an extensive literature review of peer reviewed and government literature. This was followed by field visits in Cambodia, Indonesia and Singapore to investigate consumer protection issues within ASEAN, and ensure the models would be adaptive to the Southeast Asian context. The models and guidelines developed were presented and critiqued through two validation workshops, conducted in Brunei Darussalam and Indonesia.
Outcome: Sustineo’s rapport with key officials and stakeholders in the consumer protection sector in ASEAN Member States became evident early on through active and substantive engagement with the subject matter. Stakeholders were enthused by the approach used by the Sustineo team, which acknowledged the different levels of capacity, capability and experience within ASEAN, as well as the need for targeting of marginal groups. Stakeholders were pleased that the Sustineo team was able to identify that in many places the necessary consumer protection policy and practices existed and were well regarded but that regulation needed to be improved. The consultative approach taken throughout the project ensured the final products were useful and contextually appropriate to the ASEAN context.
Difference: Throughout the project, the Sustineo team emphasised clear and open communication with ASEAN to ensure that project outputs were practical, relevant and useful. Underpinning our approach in this project were the principles of genuine interaction, inclusion and participation. Our approach was complemented by our capacity to source experts in consumer protection from law, education and communication disciplines. The inputs provided by these experts were coordinated and integrated by our in-house research team. This, combined with close engagement with ASEAN, ensured the delivery of excellent project outputs.