Tied Selling

Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS) International wishes to comment on the increasing practice of tied selling in the country.

Tied selling is a situation where a certain group of people are only allowed to buy a certain product from one source.

In tied selling, usually the supplier enjoys monopoly and can sometimes abuse the consumers by either raising the price or using other monopolistic tendencies due to lack of imminent competitors.

It should be noted that based on the Laws of Zambia, consumers have the right to choose a product that suits and appeals to them, however, in some quarters of the Zambian society, some consumers are only allowed to buy a certain product from one prescribed supplier.

Currently in Zambia, a large number of private schools have emerged after privatisation of the primary education sector. This development has brought certain practices to the fore that violates consumers’ rights. A number of schools are forcing parents and pupils to buy uniforms stationary and books from one particular person or shop.

As a non-governmental organisation working towards consumer protection, CUTS International urges all those engaged in this practice to desist from it as it is an infringement of consumer rights (and constitute ‘tied-selling’ a type of unfair trade practice).

CUTS International observes that tied selling is common in schools were only one supplier is authorised to sell a particular uniform. In this case, parents/pupils who are consumers are only supposed to buy from this supplier hence being an infringement on their right to choice.

A recent CUTS International survey across some Lusaka-based schools revealed that most of them both in private and public sectors have been forcing and instructing pupils and their parents to buy books and uniforms from a particular place. This development is a violation of consumer rights and can be penalised.

Further, some schools also bar their pupils from buying food from other shops apart from the school tuck shops.

We further remind consumers that there are laws such as the Competition and Fair Trading Act of 2004 that are meant to ensure fair competition and consumer protection in the country. Consumers need to know that such laws also empower them to seek redress should they find themselves in situations as is indicated above (as victims of tied selling or similar other unfair trade practices).

Tied selling is not welcome in an open economy as it forces consumers not to exercise their right to choice. It is illegal and is prohibited in the Competition and Fair Trading Act of 1994. More specifically, it is against the law for schools to impose undue pressure or coerce a pupil to obtain a product from one particular provider.

CUTS urges parents to stand up and protest against such practices in schools. As a consumer rights organisation, CUTS would also take cognisance of complaints that parents might bring to our attention and bring it to the notice of relevant authorities such as the Zambia Competition Commission (ZCC) so that remedial actions can be taken