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Sudaryatmo: Know your rights as consumers


This person, who only goes by one name, is the newly elected head of the Indonesian Consumers Protection Foundation (YLKI), known as the institution that fights for consumers’ rights in the country.


As the appointed leader for the organization for the period 2010-2014, this guy is the right person to run to for consumers eager to claim their rights.


He has involved in numerous legal advocacies that strive to bring justice to the consumers. With the YLKI, he has managed to make the government postpone the price hike of a number of public services, including telecommunication, water supply and electricity. He also won several legal cases against manufacturing companies.


Sudaryatmo joined the YLKI in 1992 when he began his career as a staff member in the complaints handling division.

“My job was to receive complaint phone calls, to give consultations, provide written feedback and sometime be a mediator,” Sudaryatmo reminisced on his old days in the foundation.


The 45-year old added that throughout his 19-year career in the YLKI, he spent most of his time dealing with consumers and their complaints, which he enjoyed.

“I learn a lot with my position in the [complaints handling] division. Consumers always challenged me to update my knowledge on new things because their complaints were so diverse,” Sudaryatmo said in a recent interview with The Jakarta Post.


The law graduate from the University of Diponegoro in Semarang, Central Java, has written numerous books on consumer protection, really knows what he is doing for Indonesian buyers.

He spoke fluently about the fundamental problems in the consumer protection efforts in the country that mostly stem from the public’s low awareness toward the issue.


“One of the signs shown by a country that has good consumer protection system is that its population has high complaint habit. We don’t see it here in Indonesia,” he said.

Sudaryatmo believes the small number of consumer complaints in Indonesia mostly because the people are not well informed about their rights.


In comparison, the YLKI only receives around 40 to 60 complaints every month. The foundation accepted 590 reports from disgruntled consumers last year, way below Malaysia, whose number can reach 24,000 complaints per year.

The condition is not expected to change much, Sudaryatmo adds, if Indonesian consumers are still clueless about their basic rights to receive good quality products and services from suppliers.


Therefore, the YLKI has been focusing on educating the people for years to be more critical.

But it is not an easy job for the YLKI, Sudaryatmo acknowledges, because the efforts have received tremendous challenges from industrial players, who seem to have benefited from the public’s ignorance.


“Manufacturers feel they are at advantage when the consumers don’t know anything,” he added.

To add to that, he says the government is still closing its eye to the problem.

“We can see this from the absence of the consumer protection division in many governmental bureaucratic structures despite an instruction from the law,” Sudaryatmo said.


He then translated the government’s ignorance as an attitude by the authority that undermines consumers’ existence and takes side of the industrial players.

Sudaryatmo referred to the case of a toll tariff hike in Indonesia as one example of the government’s unfair attitude. Without considering the consumers’ interest, toll operators in Indonesia can easily increase the toll price every two years because the hike is guaranteed by the government under the law.


Looking at the complex problems, consumers in Indonesia seem to have two big enemies: The business players and the government.

That’s why the YLKI has always developed new ways to help customers have their rights protected.The most revolutionary step that the foundation has taken recently is using social media networks to empower the consumers. Sudaryatmo believes Facebook and Twitter have become effective tools in spreading information on consumer empowerment. With his thoughts and dedications, it is no doubt that Sudaryatmo has become an important figure in the consumer empowerment movement in the country.

However, things would have been different had Sudaryatmo listened his parents who advised he not join an NGO after graduating from university in 1991.


“They disapproved of my decision to join the YLKI because they didn’t think this career would be promising,” Sudaryatmo said, adding that things changed after he published a few books and participated in international seminars and a conference abroad.

Following his heart was the right decision after all. The man, who loves cycling and gardening, explained his concern on public issues has grown since he was in college.

“I joined student organizations and was involved in some NGO activities. I gained my sense of volunteerism and altruism spirits from there,” he said.

But the father of two, however, could not dismiss the role of his parents in opening his views on the world.

“My father and mother both were teachers. I was lucky because my family subscribed to a newspaper, from which I learned much information,” said Sudaryatmo, who was raised in a small village in Klaten, Central Java.


From a village boy to a champion of consumer rights, Sudaryatmo keeps maintaining his humble lifestyle.

Living in a small house in Bogor, Sudaryatmo mostly uses public transportation to the office. He uses his bike to reach the nearest train station and travels to the city via train. He only uses his car on the weekend.

But apart from his modest life, Sudaryatmo is the man Indonesian consumers rely on to so they can continue being kings in the world of consumption.


Sumber : TheJakartaPost.com