A Quarterly EnewsLetter Vol.7, Issue No. 3, 2011

Editorial Comments

The Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS) called the Bank of Zambia (BoZ) and Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) to crack down on exploitative and abusive behaviour in the banking sector that retards effective competition.

Simon Ng’ona of CUTS said the country recently passed an elaborate competition policy and law that would create democratic markets not just in the banking sector, but in the entire economy. He wondered why interest rates and most other charges charged by commercial banks are the only variables apparently not responding to the improved and sustained macroeconomic environment.

Ng’ona commended BoZ Governor Caleb Fundanga for recently stating that low competition has characterised the banking industry in Zambia. A snapshot of the banking sector shows that there is an average of 18 banks of which five are big banks with an average market share of 15 percent each (measured by their balance sheets). The remaining banks have also managed to grab expansion opportunities and are providing a formidable or significant competition by any measure


Bharti Launches Global Brand
Bharti Airtel Limited has launched a new global brand across its operations in Africa. Company chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal said the new brand comes with a promise to meet the emerging needs of customers with innovative, affordable and relevant solutions to empower consumers.

The company also launched a new ultra-low cost handset package which effectively provides a mobile phone free of charge to all new subscribers. The package introduced in conjunction with Nokia, will be priced at K170, 000 and includes a brand new Nokia 1280 mobile phone, a free SIM card and the equivalent value in free Airtel talk time and SMS text messages. In Zambia, the company replaces the Zain brand

(Source: Zambia Daily Mail, 16.08.11)

MTN Plans Network Upgrades
MTN launched a money transfer system for unbanked customers in Africa and the Middle East, aiming to boost subscriber loyalty and entice new users. Chief Executive Officer Farhad Khan said MTN Zambia remained the fastest growing mobile phone company in the country, leveraging its growth on reducing tariffs and increasing technological advances such as 3G (third generation) technology.

MTN Zambia is piloting the mobile money transfer system. The technology works like a mobile bank account, enabling MTN customers to make money transfers and payments.

Users will also have an option to receive a branded MTN MobileMoney debit card, which can be used to withdraw money.

(Source: The Post Newspaper, 15.07.11)

Consumers Need Protection from Contaminated Food
Commenting on the just-ended world food standard body, the FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius Commission meeting which resolved that governments are free to decide on whether and how to label foods derived from modern biotechnology, including foods containing genetically-modified organisms (GMOs), Zambia Consumer Association (ZACA) Executive Secretary Muyunda Ililonga said food issues need high standards.

“It is one thing to develop standards and another to adhere to them. We need well-resourced institutions such as the Zambia Bureau of Standards. They need to be well equipped in human resource and finance to be able to function. We need robust institutions which should be able to protect consumers against contaminated food,” Ililonga said

(Source: Zambian Watchdog, 26.06.11)

Out of Date and on your Plate
A number of Zambian supermarkets are selling expired goods despite government action to outlaw the practice. Consumers often fail to pay attention to the expiration date of goods which some stores are capitalising on.

A random survey revealed that some chain stores in Lusaka do not normally remove goods that are due to pass their sell by date but simply shift them from their usual display shelves to the sale section.

Lucas Mulenga, 40, of Lusaka described a recent incident when together with his wife, he attempted to return to Shoprite Checkers, a one kilogramme packet of out of date sugar but was refused because the matter was raised a day after purchase

(Source: www.allafrica.com, 09.08.11)

Flava FM Launches Flavabuddies
Flava FM in the Copperbelt, Zambia has launched an SMS social network called Flavabuddies aim at making communication easier for the public. Flava FM Chief Executive Officer Chishala Chitoshi Junior said Flavabuddies had a format similar to Twitter.

Chitoshi, however, said whereas Twitter is essentially a many-to-many conversation via micro blog posts, Flavabuddies is a one-to-many conversation via SMS. Chitoshi stated that service would cost K600 per SMS, adding that it was a social media platform for SMS that would enable users to be in the loop with friends while on the go

(Source: The Post Newspaper, 07.09.11)

Snapshots on Consumer Issues

Airtel Attracts More Complaints
Airtel Zambia is the most complained against mobile phone provider by customers while MTN Zambia remains the cheapest and most efficient, reveals Zambia Information and Communications Technology Authority (ZICTA) Public Relations Manager Ngabo Nonkonde.

Nonkonde said that the bulk of complaints that ZICTA received from mobile phone customers bordered on transmission of unsolicited promotional messages from mobile networks, over charging of internet services bundle and expiration of bundles as well as poor internet quality on the internet modems. She said Airtel was the most expensive mobile phone provider, followed by Zamtel while MTN was the least expensive.

(Source: The Post Newspaper, 14.09.11)

Zanaco Launches 123 Express Services
Zanaco Bank Plc will this year roll out Zanaco express service to 123 Zampost locations countrywide, a development that will allow new bank customers in rural areas to access its services through the Xapit account.

Zanaco signed an agreement with Zampost, a facility allowing both the bank and postal services customers to access banking products in Zampost locations countrywide. Zanaco Managing Director Martyn Schouten said customers can deposit and withdraw cash, transfer cash to different Xapit accounts and use Xapit cards at Zampost offices.

(Source: Zambia Daily Mail, 13.09.11)

Google Partners with AfriConnect
The World’s leading search engine Google and leading video sharing website You Tube has partnered with local Internet service provider (ISP) AfriConnect to host the internet giant’s local cache operations.

AfriConnect Marketing Manager Janice Maliwa-Chipenzi said that AfriConnect will become the host operation for the Google and YouTube servers in Zambia. “The effect of hosting this caching equipment is that all Google searches are carried out locally in Zambia rather than in Europe or further afield, and that popular searches from around the world are pre-fetched or saved on the servers – meaning search results are already on a server in the country, making searches notably faster, and saving international bandwidth” she said.

(Source: Lusakatimes.com, 15.07.11)

About the Newsletter
Consumer Watch newsletter is 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 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.