CUTS International observes weaknesses in news consumer bill

CUTS International has observed that the new competition and consumer protection bill has some weaknesses that should be addressed immediately in order to ensure full consumer protection.

Parliament has passed the new bill, which is awaiting Presidential assent. The bill has new features that will strengthen the business competition regime and enforcement of consumer protection mechanism.

But Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS) Zambia programme officer Simon Ng’ona said the proposed legislation has revealed some inadequacies.

“The bill recognises consumer protection only within the context of unfair trading practices but the scope should be beyond this because a consumer protection law generally not only recognises the eight basic consumer rights, but also have provisions explaining how the law helps to ensure that such rights will be met and given that by its name, the bill purports to be a consumer law, it has to be comprehensive for it to be in the interest of consumers,” Ng’ona said.

“For instance, the definition of a consumer in the bill is limited but should be wide enough to include not only direct consumers but also other beneficiaries such as any other user other than the buyer, purchaser or partly promised person of a good or service is also considered as a consumer.Secondly, the composition of the commission itself needs to be clear. It provides that five members with relevant experience will be appointed by the Minister of Commerce Trade and Industry but if there is no clear mention of criterion of selection, such posts are filled up on political basis and it will be good if space is created for representation of Civil Society Organisations and other non-state actors.”

He noted that part VII on consumer protection of the bill mentions penalties for violation of provisions related to consumer protection but lacked any mechanism for grievance redress.

“It should clearly outline how any consumer can file complaint, where this could be done (jurisdiction), the manner or procedure to file the complaint as well as procedure of disposal of complaints and the role of other stakeholder such as consumer organisation should also be highlighted in the whole redress process,” said Ng’ona.

“It is therefore imperative that these issues are taken into account if consumer protection is to be enhanced in Zambia and once such issues are addressed, the commission will have the muscle to protect consumers and legitimate businesses will have somewhere to turn to when they fall victim to these fraudulent practices and it is also important for consumers to be proactive and also to take time to understand some of the statutes that are being constituted and those that are being enforced.”

This news can also be viewed at: