‘Hidden’ Charge Comes Under Consumer Protection Spotlight

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‘Hidden’ Charge Comes Under Consumer Protection Spotlight

Imagine the scenario. A foreigner visits Thailand and after a little bit of travelling around decides he would like to live in the country on a longer term basis. Maybe he’s retired, maybe he’s a man of independent financial means, or maybe he has skills that have secured him employment in an industry he enjoys.

Since he is now going to settle down for a period of time in one location, maybe Pattaya or Bangkok for example, he thinks it might be more sensible, both economically and socially, for him to fi nd a suitable apartment or house to rent. So, he begins the search for a place. Usually the market has plenty of long-term rental opportunities, so he quickly realises there are a plethora of places from which to choose. He decides he needs to be within walking distance of good and reliable public transport – in Bangkok that usually means the BTS Sky Train system or the underground railway – as well as restaurants, shopping centres and markets.

He soon notices prices for apartments don’t vary wildly, but he finds one place which appears especially good value for money. For the sake of an example, let’s say the apartment is a modern two-bedroom 70 square metre, fully furnished place for 25,000 baht a month. Similar apartments in the area are going for 30,000 baht a month and upwards. He makes an appointment to view the apartment. Everything seems in order: the furnishings look fi ne, the light fi ttings, the décor, the cleanliness; everything looks fi ne. Just one thing is worrying him. Why is it far less expensive than similar places? The old adage ‘if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is’ rings in his head.

Further inquiries reveal that while the rental is 25,000 baht a month, the charge for electricity runs at 10 baht per unit. Considering the government’s electricity authority charges just four baht per unit, he realises that if his standard electric bill is, say, 5,000 baht a month, he will be hit with a bill from the landlord for 12,500 baht. In other words, the landlord will pocket 7,500 baht extra from the electricity charge, thereby turning what appeared a good value rental into something somewhat less attractive.

This type of scenario is played out across the country in apartments rented by both expats and Thais. Recently, the Consumer Protection Board (CPB) has been goaded into some form of action following numerous complaints from renters that they are being charged 7-8 baht and more for electricity. The CPB has apparently agreed to act to set a maximum price that can be charged by apartment owners. Naturally, this will be higher than the basic electricity authority charge, but will be designed to prevent the ‘gouging’ that is currently taking place.