New agency to change policy, culture of consumer affairs

by Kazuaki Nagata

The creation of the Consumer Affairs Agency this fall will transform the way the government operates, focusing on protecting consumers rather than companies, state minister in charge of consumer affairs Seiko Noda said Monday.

In recent years, there have been numerous cases that have alarmed consumers, including pesticide-tainted “gyoza” frozen dumplings imported from China, “konnyaku” jelly leading to suffocation deaths, and the Mikasa Foods tainted rice scandal, Noda said in a talk at the Foreign Press Center Japan.

She pointed out these problems were caused by the government’s policy of protecting producers — a stance introduced in the Meiji Era to promote industrialization.

Noda added that regulation to protect consumers has until now been crafted by various ministries that have failed to coordinate their policies.

“As society has become more globalized and complex, it is now difficult to handle consumer-related issues among the vertically divided framework of ministries,” she said.

Consumer criticism grew as it was not always clear which ministry to approach for help, and as consumers often found themselves bounced from ministry to ministry when making inquiries.

Creating the agency “is a drastic reform” because it will handle all consumer-related issues from the consumer’s point of view, Noda said.

The agency, expected to be launched in September, will have a ¥9.3 billion budget and a staff of about 200 officials.