A Quarterly EnewsLetter Vol.8, Issue No. 1, 2012

Editorial Comments

Consumers vary from one to another and so are their needs. Many consumers have been getting a raw deal of services and products from providers. In some cases, consumers themselves are not aware that their rights are being trampled down because in the first place they do not know their rights.
So what could be done to address consumers on their rights and relationship with service providers? One way in which this could be done is the formation of consumer watch groups (CWGs). The CWGs will among other functions, provide communication between consumers and providers as an independent organs; sensitise fellow consumers on activities of the regulators affecting the interests of consumers; and facilitate resolution of complaints and obtain appropriate remedies from service providers against authorised standards and targets and keep consumers informed about the progress of complaints, outcomes, provide reasons for decisions rendered and keep consumers informed of their rights and obligations.
To achieve this, sector regulators must take the lead in the formation of CWGs. They should be an interface between the two because the ultimate objective of regulators is to ensure that consumers get the value for their money. The watch groups should be sustainable and enjoy autonomous so that members of CWG are free to take the complaints of their fellow consumers to regulators. This initiative will bridge the gap between service providers, consumers and regulators as well as resolve previously outstanding complaints


Alcoholic Drink Tujilijili is Safe
Against all olds, investigations into the safety of alcohol sachets popularly known as tujilijili have revealed that the beer is free of contaminants and safe for human consumption. The Lusaka City Council has allowed companies that were closed for manufacturing the sachets, to resume operations. The laboratory tests were conducted by the Zambia Bureau of Standards (ZBS) and the Zambia Institute for Scientific Research. The results of tests revealed that the sachets are safe for human consumption. The sachets have claimed many lives in the recent past

(Source: Lusakatimes.com, 22.02.12)

The transfer of money was made more easier when First National Bank (FNB) Zambia launched the ‘ewallet’ product that would allow the transfer of money to people without the account with the bank but are subscribed to Airtel and MTN mobile networks. This product (e-wallet) currently caters for FNB account holders who can send money to any cell phone user on the MTN or Airtel network without the cell phone owner needing a bank account to receive or withdraw money from an FNB ATM. This is a product that would enable consumers who do not have access to the formal banking sector to access these services without needing a bank account.

(Source: The Post, 15.02.12)

Airtel’s Call Blocking Angers ZICTA
Customers of Airtel products have for a long time been prone to an automated call blocking system in its call centre which is programmed to bar all numbers that call the centre for more than three times in a particular day. This was revealed by the Zambia Information and Communication Technology Authority (ZICTA).

ZICTA described the practise as an “affront to consumer’s rights and interests” as it denied them the right to make a complaint and deprived them of the privileges to contact their service provider when necessary. According to Section 67 of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Act number 15 of 2009, “all service providers must deal reasonably with their consumers and address consumer complaints”.

Hence, the failure to adhere to the above provisions constituted an offence where any service providers found wanting were liable to prosecution. ZICTA had, therefore, directed Airtel to cease the practice with immediate effect, failure to which the authorities would invoke provisions of the act and take stern action against the operator

(Source: The Post, 12.01.12)

Electricity Rates to be Hiked
Consumers are said to have been faced with good news when the Zambia Electricity Supply Cooperation Limited (ZESCO) planed to improve its electricity supply and capture more people in Zambia on their grid. However, the bad news was that Zambian consumers including mining companies would have to pay more with effect from May 2012 due to an increase in the producing power.

But the Zambia Consumer’s Association (ZACA) opposed the intended tariff hike saying the increase was unwarranted. According to Zesco’s Director for Corporate Affairs and Business; the upward adjustment in tariffs was attributed to inflation and exchange rate pressure, vis-a-vis rising cost of inputs.

Furthermore, electricity was one of the major drivers in Zambia’s economy hence it was essential for the country to have an adequate supply of electricity which was reliable, of good quality and reasonably charged

(Source: Zambia Daily Mail, 26.01.12)

Snapshots on Consumer Issues

Castle, Mosi Prices Up
The news that Mosi and Castle lager prices have been adjusted by K300 must be a bitter pill to swallow for lovers of the two brands. Most beer outlets in Lusaka have effected the increase with some of them increasing the price of a bottle of larger by K500.

Zambian Breweries, the country’s largest brewer, announced that the recommended retail price of Mosi larger 375ml and Castle Lager 375mls has jumped from K4,200 to K4,500 per unit.

On the other hand, National Breweries, a subsidiary of Zambian Breweries announced K500 reduction in the per unit price of Chibuku, an opaque beer. The SAB Miller brewing giant which also announced a nine per cent increase in Maheu (an energy drink) attributed the increment to inflationary increases which were impacting its input costs

(Source: The Post, 15.03.12)

ZACA Cautions Consumers on Edible Oil
Cooking oil is a house hold name however, the vending of cooking oil through loose oil banks popularly known as ‘Salad Houses’ which decant the commodity directly into containers for consumption by consumers, is putting people’s health in danger, the ZACA said.

Meanwhile, a consumer observed that government is losing billions of Kwacha through smuggled cooking oil that finds itself on the local market and sold to the public in Salad Houses by decanting from 210-litre containers.

ZACA Executive Secretary Muyunda Ililonga has since appealed to the ZBS and the public health inspectors to check compliance of packaging of cooking oil in line with standards under the Food and Drug Act.

(Source: The Post, 14.02.12)

UBA Launches Pre-Paid Visa Card
In the quest to respond to the ever increasing demand of quality and innovative products, the United Bank for Africa (UBA) launched the first ever pre-paid visa card known as Africard aimed at making payments easy for consumers of all walks of life. The new card would attract the unbanked population from rural areas to use as it does not require opening a bank account.

The card comes with enhanced security features and gives an opportunity for any organisation to have a visa card with an organisation logo. Bank of Zambia Acting Assistant Director Mbinga Kafunya said there was need to ensure that banks followed the rules as such products could be abused on the market

(Source: Zambia Daily Mail, 09.01.12)

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.