A Quarterly EnewsLetter Vol.6, Issue No. 4, 2010

Editorial Comments

Electricity consumers have, in the recent past, complained over the unreliable services of Zambia’s biggest electricity company, ZESCO. However, the utility company should be commended for the procurement and installation of the Extended Vending Gateway (EVG). Customers will now be able to buy electricity units through their mobile phones and banking services. This will be an essential substitute for the traditional way of purchasing electricity units through designated pay points. The EVG system will enable ZESCO expedite and improve its service delivery in the sale of electricity units.

However, the conventional methods of purchasing units at various designated points should continue alongside the new system. This is because not all consumers own or are conversant with the extended use of mobile phones nor do they have bank accounts through which they can buy electricity units, hence the need to maintain both initiatives.

Nonetheless, it is hoped that the introduction of the EVG will reduce the queues which consumers have been subjected to for some time. The good thing is that consumers will now be able to purchase units as per their convenience. This will decongest the areas where the service is being provided, reduce on time and also cut on the travel costs.


Consumer’s Lured in Unclear Schemes
It is an undisputed fact that money plays an important role in the economy. Of concern, however, is the way wealth is amassed at times that involves fraudulent activities such as money laundering, ponzi schemes and other shoddy deals. Brian Lingela, Director, Consumer and Public Relations of the Zambian Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC), observes that while some ways of making money are genuine, others are fraudulent, owing to a mushrooming of a number of pyramid schemes.

In his article entitled, ‘Free, Quick Money and Pyramid Scheme’, Lingela says, in Zambia, a number of consumers were increasingly being lured to participate in pyramid schemes which were hardly clear on whether new entrants would get dividends or not.

He explained that there was a scheme where a person “old in the game” recruits the second person by making him/her invest some money through buying a certificate at an amount which goes to the recruiter. He, however, cautioned that almost all pyramid schemes are inherently fraudulent and misleading by nature and, hence, attract the Commission’s attention.

(Source: The Post Newspaper, 27.12.10)

Chinese Ambassador on Perceived Substandard Products
Chinese Ambassador to Zambia, Li Qiangmin, says some foreign organisations have been manufacturing substandard products and giving them Chinese labels to tarnish the image of the Asian country.

Zambians’ public perception of China is that of a giant that has turned Zambia into a dumping ground for substandard products. The Ambassador was quick to say there are discussions about this, as the Chinese government has received many complaints from African countries about the quality of Chinese products.

The Ambassador added that there are some products that are coming from other countries that are labelled Chinese, thereby tarnishing the image of the country. He assured consumers that the situation would change next year (2011).

(Source: The Post 23.12.10)

Backyard Ad Agencies Worry CCPC
The CCPC of Zambia has expressed concern over the increasing number of backyard advertising agencies that are providing substandard services in the country.

Lingela said that some of the advertising agencies had no real professional experience as far as professional and creative aspects of the practice were concerned. He said this when he made a presentation at the Zambia Institute of Marketing (ZIM) entitled ‘Advertising Standards in Zambia: Where Do We Stand as a Nation?’

He said there is need for resources to be invested in developing a cadre of professional and creative people that are capable of setting high standard in creating advertisements of value. There is a growing trend in Zambia where a number of consumers are being duped into paying so much money for little value and substandard advertising creations and products.

(Source: Times of Zambia, 24.12.10)

Zambia Car Importers Cry Foul
Zambian importers lodged 12 complaints against several Japanese motor vehicle exporters over unfair trade practices (UTPs) in the last three years. The aggrieved Zambians cited “no response and no-shipment” after payments, while in some cases, the sellers shipped damaged vehicles and could later not be traced.

The complaints, which resulted in the blacklisting of 31 used Japanese car exporters, were filed through Tradecarview between 2007 and November 2010. Other countries that launched similar complaints were Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Mozambique, Malawi and South Africa.

Tradecarview also had cases where buyers received vehicles with different colours or years of mileage from what they had purchased. Tradecarview said most buyers would end up keeping the vehicles that they did not buy because getting a refund or exchange usually requires extra time and money.

(Source: Zambia Daily Mail, 21.12.10)

ZICTA Regulates ICT Sector
Advances that have continued being made in the area of Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) have, over the years, changed the way people communicate internationally and locally.

As opposed to using the traditional postal system of sending letters within and outside Zambia, many people have resorted to communicating via email or mobile phones, both of which have the obvious benefits of speed, as opposed to the inherent delays in physical mail delivery.

Postal and courier services now provide more benefits to the consumers such as the links to applications like e-commerce that can contribute to the economic growth of the nation. The links connect buyers and sellers and establish markets, build relationships as well as act as distribution channels and fulfil basic communication needs of Zambians.

It is for this reason that the Zambia Information and Communication Technology Authority (ZICTA) has been mandated, under the Postal Services Act, to regulate postal and courier services.

(Source: Zambia Daily Mail, 27.12.10)

Council Shuts Kabwe Shoprite
Sanitation is one of the major requirements aimed at ensuring that consumer’s welfare is enhanced. Most companies have exhibited a tendency of ignoring the safety and sanitation requirements.

It is for this reason that the Kabwe Municipal Council (KMC), after several warnings, has closed down Shoprite Checkers. The chain store has been closed on grounds of poor sanitation and defective air conditioning system which were posing a danger to both workers and customers.

The Council officials also indicated that lack of sanitation is a major problem as it is a threat to the lives of the people and the move to close down Kabwe Shoprite checkers will be a lesson to other companies ignoring safety and sanitation standards.

(Source: Zambia Daily Mail, 04.11.10)

Consumers Sign for Zain’s Makwacha
About 36,000 Zain Zambia customers (now trading as Airtel Zambia) have signed up for the Makwacha mobile payment transaction. The telecommunications company has also engaged about 110 agents to ensure that this system was a success.

Disclosing the development, Airtel Managing Ddirector, Fayaz King, said the Makwacha project, which was a pilot project, had so far received a good response. He said that the mobile payment transaction would provide customers with fast, reliable and easy way to send money and make other payments.

The mobile payments transaction will allow customers to send money, cash withdrawals and making payments. The customer base will grow bigger at the end of 2010.

(Source: Times of Zambia, 14.12.10)

Snapshots on Consumer Issues

Negligence Cost a Consumer Money
A consumer who bought energy saver bulbs at Matero Shoprite was recently not allowed to return the bulbs bought from the shop. While shopping in the retail outlet, a customer bought two bulbs without checking properly whether they were pin type or screw type. Because of lack of due care exhibited by his failure to check properly what he was buying, the consumer was refused return of the bulbs.

(Source: Zambia Watchdog, 12.12.10)

Shopping Mall Appreciated
SPUR Centre Shopping Mall in Kitwe is proving to be more and more convenient for shoppers, as a good number of outlets are offering various quality services and products in this highly competitive environment. The display is neat, while the products are of high quality in outlets, which include Luscold, Quick Save, Nice Products, Pie City, Farm City, Sounds Investments and other shops stocking high quality clothes and confectioneries.

(Source: Times of Zambia, 15.12.10)

High Interest and Lending Rates
Zambia’s financial sector is one sector that has embraced competition, but it is, however, surprising that consumers of banking services are still enduring high interest rates and other bank charges, despite inflation coming down and other economic fundamentals being positive. This is further worsened by the non-compliance by banks to heed to calls by the Bank of Zambia and the Ministry of Finance and National Planning to reduce the lending rates.

(Source: The Post, 08.11.10)

About the Newsletter
Consumer Watch newsletter is a joint initiative of the CUTS ARC and ZACA, published with the objective of enhancing consumer welfare through sensitisation, information dissemination and capacity building of consumers, business entities and government. While addressing consumer concerns, the newsletter focuses on bringing out issues such as violation of consumer rights and measures to be taken by the relevant authorities to protect stakeholders.

CUTS ARC and ZACA will strive to support and lobby the Government and the stakeholders to ensure resumption of the process to eventually enact a functional Consumer Protection Law in the country and also establish a functional institutional mechanism to implement the law. This is in line with the changes taking place in other countries in the region in the wake of globalisation and liberalisation. Apart from carrying consumer-related information, the publication will also give an analysis on current consumer concerns in the country.