A Quarterly EnewsLetter Vol.7, Issue No. 1, 2011

Editorial Comments

As a signatory to the United Nations Protocol on Consumer rights, Zambia joined the rest of the world on the 15th March in commemorating the World Consumer Rights Day with the local theme ‘Consumer Rights and Obligations – Knowledge is Power’. Suffice it to say that this day seeks to draw attention to the importance of consumers by highlighting their rights.

It is saddening though to note that despite the enactment of the new law on Competition and Consumer Protection Act 2010, most consumers in the country are still ignorant of their rights. It is in this vein that the Government of Zambia has made attempts to ensure that a number of these rights are incorporated in consumer legislation, in particular, the Competition & Consumer Protection Act No. 24 of 2010.

For example, with regard to the Right to Safety, Section 52 (1) of the Act requires that a person or enterprise shall not sell any goods to consumers unless the goods conform to the mandatory safety standards for the class of goods set by the Zambia Bureau of Standards or any other relevant competent body.

The day stems from and dates back to the 15th of March 1963, when the then President, John F. Kennedy of US, gave an inspiring address to the US congress in which he formally addressed the issue of consumer rights. President Kennedy was the first world leader to do so and the consumer movement worldwide now marks the 15th March every year as a means of raising global awareness about consumer rights and the need to respect and honour them. In 1985, the UN then adopted the UN Guidelines for Consumer Protection in recognition of the need to ensure consumers are protected
Bharti Airtel to Improve Network
Bharti Airtel, the world’s fifth-largest telecommunications company, said it was set to improve telecommunications infrastructure in Africa in 2011. Through the company’s international Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, Manoj Kohli, the company said the management has put in place measures to help the company deliver innovative and affordable products and services to the people across the African continent.

Customers will experience and enjoy superior quality of service, reliability, innovation and affordability, while the company made an assurance that it will remain committed to putting in place effective interventions which will help the company accelerate the transformation of the African mobile communications and positively impact the speed of economic development across the continent.

(Source: The Post Newspaper, 14.01.11)

Incoming Roaming Call Charges Removed
MTN Zambia customers travelling to South Africa, Uganda, Rwanda, Botswana and Swaziland will now receive calls free of charge as the mobile operator scrapped the incoming call charges and short message services (SMS) for its customers. Previously, customers out in these countries and roaming with their mobile phones with their local networks (MTN and Airtel) were being charged quite highly for receiving calls or SMS.

This development now allows customers to roam with ease, where one can stay connected without being charged while roaming. For prepaid customers, the roaming service is also automatically activated anywhere where MTN network exists, with no prior registration required or sign-up fees charged.

(Source: Zambia Daily Mail, 10.03.11)

CCPC to Inspect Shops with Disclaimers
The Deputy Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry directed the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) to investigate retail shops mounting disclaimers of liability, effectively rejecting to accept items bought from them which were defective.

The new law gives the Commission more power to regulate competition and effectively carry out consumer protection. It was also felt that information asymmetry in existence would continue being a source of concern as companies were taking advantage and exploiting the ignorant customers, hence the need to include such information in the education curriculum

(Source: Zambia Daily Mail, 08.03.11)

ZICTA to Promote Consumer Interest
One of the functions of the Zambia Information and Communications Authority Technology (ZICTA), as stipulated in the Information and Communication Technology Act (ICT) of 2009, is to promote the interests of consumers, purchasers and other users of information and electronic communication services.

This includes persons with disabilities and the aged in respect of the accessibility, quality and variety of the services and equipment. To this effect, ZICTA has formulated guidelines on consumer protection and carrying out awareness campaigns aimed at educating consumers on their rights. In discharging this function, ZICTA has identified consumer rights and obligations that consumers need to be educated about, in addition to the procedure for lodging complaints against service

(Source: Zambia Daily Mail, 28.02.11)

Snapshots on Consumer Issues

Financial Institutions to Comply with Consumer Protection
The Central Bank says it hopes all financial institutions under its supervision will comply with consumer protection provisions in the Banking and Financial Services Act. Bank of Zambia Northern Region Director, Morris Mulomba, said during the commemoration of this year’s Consumer Rights Day in Kitwe that under Section 47 of the Banking and Financial Services Act, financial service providers and banks were required to disclose, in writing, charges and interests pertaining to products they offer.

He said the guidelines and other laws in the Act also compelled Banks to submit a list of the charges for a number of their services, which should be published in the press to enable market participants make informed decisions when choosing the bank to deal with.

(Source: The Post, 16.03.11)

CCPC Disposes Several Competition Cases
The CCPC has granted final conditional authorisation for the acquisition of BP Africa’s 75 percent issued capital shareholding in BP Zambia Plc by Puma Energy Holdings Limited of Ireland. However, the Commission, in granting the authorisation, noted that the proposed transaction raised competition issues in the relevant market for wholesale fuel and aviation sectors, but would not likely lessens competition in the retail fuel and lubrication sectors in Zambia.

Puma Energy Holdings is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Trafigura Beheer B.V established in 1993. Trafigura and its subsidiaries conduct commodity-trading activities throughout the world purchasing, transporting and delivering commodities and on-selling these to industrial customers. On a global basis, it is one of the large independent traders of oil and non-ferrous metals.

(Source: Zambian Watchdog, 26.01.11)

Zamtel Launches 60-day Promo
ZAMTEL has launched a 60-day ‘Talk & Talk’ promotion on the Cell-Z mobile phone network that would see subscribers call for free between midnight and 06:00 hours. Customers will also enjoy seven free minutes in every 10-minute call during peak hours.

The new promotion will enable all Cell-Z pre-paid customers to enjoy free seven minutes after every initial three minutes call they make during peak hours on the network between 08:00 hours and 20:00 hours every day during the duration of the promotion. ‘Talk & Talk’ promotion had been deliberately designed to give Zamtel customers the ability to remain in touch at affordable rates and, to a certain extent, for free.

(Source: Times of Zambia, 16.03.11)

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.