UNCTAD contributes to African session on consumer protection

As part of UNCTAD’s mandate on competition and consumer protection, the United Nations conference to review the Set of Principles on Competition (UN Set) and the annual meeting of the Intergovernmental Group of Experts (IGE) on Competition Law and Policy actively participated in preparing and servicing the fifth annual African Consumer Protection Dialogue conference.

The conference, held in Livingstone, Zambia, from 10 to 12 September, was hosted by the Zambian Competition and Consumer Protection Commission and the United States Federal Trade Commission. Its theme was “moving cross-border collaboration forward”. Elizabeth Gachuiri of UNCTAD’s Competition and Consumer Policies Branch co-facilitated the conference.

Discussions during the three-day meeting covered such topics as current competition and consumer protection issues in the United States and Africa, working with judicial authorities on fraud issues, case selection for consumer and competition cases, the development of an investigative plan for competition and consumer protection cases, mobile money issues, cyber threats, civil-criminal law enforcement issues, and best practices in compliance and remedies.

During these discussions, UNCTAD outlined future steps for revision of the United Nations Guidelines for Consumer Protection, and presented the report from the Ad Hoc Expert Meeting on Consumer Protection which was held in Geneva in July back-to-back with the thirteenth session of the IGE.

UNCTAD’s work on the harmonization of cyber laws, and a comparative study on mobile money in the East African Community, were presented during the session on cyber threats. Furthermore, a breakfast session was held to raise awareness of Brazil’s food-recall system among consumer protection officials from Colombia and Peru. This took place as part of COMPAL, which is an UNCTAD technical assistance programme that deals with competition and consumer protection policies in Latin America.

Representatives of national competition and consumer protection agencies agreed at the meeting to collaborate on cross-border consumer protection issues. And they drafted a proposal and statement of intent for an “African dialogue on principles for cooperation in consumer protection enforcement.” The meeting agreed that consumer protection issues – much like competition issues – required a collaborative and regional approach.

UNCTAD pledged its commitment to continue working with member States’ consumer protection and competition agencies, as well as with consumer protection non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to further enhance exchanges of best practices.

The conference was supported by the Zambian Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, the United States Federal Trade Commission, the secretariat of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), Consumers International, and the Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS).

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