A Quarterly EnewsLetter Vol.8, Issue No. 4, 2013

Editorial Comments

Following the World Consumer Rights’ Day celebration held on 15th March under the theme “Consumer Justices Now”, it must be noted that not all regulation is effective in achieving its goals and there is legitimate concern about the impact of poorly designed or unnecessary regulation on business, consumers and the economy. Good regulatory practice can address these problems through the effective enforcement of existing regulation rather than the introduction of additional regulation. However, if there is grave need to introduce a new or improve an old legislation or policy etc, then that should be done without further delays.
Enforcement is central to the success of regulation, and the realisation of goals of any regulatory scheme relies on the effectiveness of the enforcement of the regime. Therefore, it is important for regulators to reflect on key areas that affect their journey of protecting consumer’s interests to guarantee the needed and deserved Justice Now for Consumers.
Regulatory agencies dealing with consumer related aspects should always endeavour to provide comprehensive information on enforcement decision making processes and publish its consumer protection enforcement outcomes in a manner that facilitates comparative analysis. Enhanced communication will not only raise the feasibility of the regulators but also enhance public trust in the regulatory decisions by regulators


Two SPAR Outlets Fined for Selling Expired Food
Spar Downtown and Spar Crossroads have been fined for allegedly selling expired products and goods without labels. A Lusaka Magistrate Court fined two shopping outlets after finding them guilty of the material charge contrary the Competition and Consumer Protection Act number 24 of 2010.

This relates to a matter in which the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC), jointly with the Lusaka City Council Public Health Department, carried out random inspections in Lusaka’s retail shops including Spar Downtown and Spar Crossroads.

It was found that two shops allegedly had a number of products displayed on their shelves for sale to customers that were found to have had either expired or had no expiry dates, or no proper labeling

(Source: Lusaka Times, 30.11.12)

Ministry of Health Closes Bars & Food Outlets
The Council and Ministry of Health swung into action to close bars and food outlets that were operating without sanitary conditions in Lukanga Swamps in Kapiri Mposhi district. The operation to close bars and restaurants was in the bid to contain the spread of Cholera and other diarrheal diseases which were widespread in the area.

Kapiri Mposhi District Council, Environmental Health Officer, Peter Sati who led the crew said that the closure of outlets followed an order by Kapiri Mposhi District Magistrates Court after their owners had failed to observe the minimum health and sanitary standards required for one to run bars and food outlets in contravention with the Food and Drugs Act.

(Source: Lusaka Times, 30.10.13)

ZABS Warns Consumers over Uncertified Products
The Zambia Bureau of Standards (ZABS) has called on consumers to be wary of products on the market that do not carry the quality mark certification log that is given by ZABS. Lee Hamuunji, ZABS Public Relations Officer noted that the market has been saturated with products not bearing the ZABS quality mark and that products bearing the quality mark are safe and thus fit for consumption as they are certified by ZABS.

Hamuunji, therefore, urged manufacturers to ensure that their products are certified by ZABS and appealed to the consumers to be on the look-out for the new quality mark

(Source: Lusaka Times, 23.04.13)

Mealie-meal Shortages Hit Chipata
A critical shortage of mealie meal which hit Chipata district has continued with hundreds of residents queuing up to buy the commodity whenever a truck brings new stocks.

The residents who scramble to buy mealie meal which is in short supply have also complained of the increased price of the commodity which is selling at KR65 per 25 kilogramme bag of breakfast meal as opposed to the government directive to sell it at KR50. A check by media in the central business district found most shops without the commodity while those that did said they would continue selling mealie meal at KR65 saying the order price of the committee had increased to KR50.

(Source: The Post, 06.07.12)

Zambia’s Fuel Prices Highest in Region
The Energy Regulation Board (ERB) said that Zambians pay the highest fuel prices in the region as they subsidise industrial and commercial customers. George Chabwera, Board Chairperson, ERB said the Board plans to restructure fuel pump mechanism to separate domestic from commercial and industrial consumers to correct the pricing mismatch.

Chabwera said petrol consumers were subsidising diesel consumers who were mostly commercial and industrial resulting into high fuel prices. He further stated that the solution is to mark the product to distinguish various consumers that are using certain products as this is one of the major ways to reduce petrol prices.

(Source: The Post, 10.01.13)

ZACA: Strengthen Regulatory Bodies
The Zambia Consumers Association (ZACA) said that there is need for government to strengthen regulatory bodies as most of them are non-functional. Andrew Mwikisa, ZACA Operations Assistant said there is need to strategically strengthen regulatory wings to reduce on poor health levels in the country.

He said “Customers have complained of being sold under-par livestock and poultry but we do not know why such things continue to recur. Currently we don’t know what is being processed.” There is need to increase awareness on matters affecting consumers, especially in the area of public health.

(Source: Zambia Daily Mail, 11.03.13)

Hitches, Anxiety Greet Rebased Kwacha
Technical hitches and anxiety welcomed the new rebased kwacha notes as they hit the market for the first time. Those that managed to withdraw earlier, temporarily held on to the new notes, opting to use the old ones in their transactions.

Bank customers rose up early with many milling around banks to withdraw money from ATMs, after a day of no access to their accounts. Restless customers, who could not be pacified by the security officials on duty from banks whose ATMs were not working, went to other banks where they were met with disappointment.

Finance Minister Alexander Chikwanda expressed hope that the banks had adequately prepared for the exercise to avoid any hitches.

(Source: The Post 02.01.13)

Snapshots on Consumer Issues

Airtel Launches Free Calling Promo
Airtel Zambia has launched yet another promotion dubbed “call them all for free”, a promotion that is targeted at pre-paid customers and awards 25 Airtel calling minutes for a charge of KR2 and 50 Airtel calling minutes plus 30 SMS for a charge of KR4.

Chabuka Kawesha, Airtel Head of Corporate Communications and Government Relations, said the objective of this promotion is to give back to customers and the community at large by allowing them to call longer while going about their day to day business. He said, “It is our hope that as we provide this service, we meet the communication needs of every Zambian”.

(Source: Times of Zambia 23.04.13)

Barclays Clients Complain About Debit Anomalies
Some Barclays Bank clients have complained of having their accounts over-debited whenever money is being recovered for unprocessed Visa debit payments. Several customers expressed concern that the bank was not immediately deducting money from their accounts each time they made electronic transactions such as swiping.

The clients further complained that some of the transactions that took place many months ago were being deducted now without any notice and criticised what they termed “over-deducting and unnecessary bank charges”.

But Barclays Bank Zambia has apologised to its customers for the inconvenience saying the debit problem was caused by its remedial action to recover the unprocessed Visa debit payments from customers who made transactions using Visa

(Source: The Post 27.12.12)

Internet Pricing More Affordable
Zambia Information Communication Technology Authority (ZICTA) says internet pricing in the country has reduced significantly to the current KR125 per Giga Bite (GB) from KR1, 500 GB over the last two years.

Meanwhile, the Authority is discussing with internet service providers (ISPs) to ensure that they improve internet services following complaints from consumers. Margaret Mudenda, Director General, ZICTA said there has been a notable change in the cost of pricing of internet in the country, contrary to public outcry that the costs are exorbitant.

(Source: Zambia Daily Mail, 12.03.13)

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.