Consumer Protection Council is devising ways to ensure that companies in various sectors of the economy are punished for abusing the rights of consumers of their products
| By Anayo Ezugwu | Apr. 6, 2015 @ 01:00 GMT |
THE Consumer Protection Council, CPC, has decried the high rate of consumer rights abuses in the telecommunications, aviation, banking and power sectors of the Nigerian economy. Dupe Atoki, director-general, said the prevalence of consumer abuses in different sectors of the nation’s economy had resulted in a situation where consumers were not getting value for their money.
At a public lecture entitled, “The State of Consumer Rights Protection in Nigeria,” organised by the Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Lagos, on Monday, March 23, in Lagos, Atoki said the council had adopted the strategy of criminal prosecution of recalcitrant corporate organisations to achieve satisfactory redress.
The action became necessary because In Nigeria, market failures manifest in different ways with varying degrees of negative impact on consumers. While the free market is currently operational in Nigeria, all forms of consumer abuse still pervade virtually every sector of the economy, denying consumers their rights. For instance, in the telecommunications sector, consumers still contend with drop calls, unsolicited texts/calls, poor network and credit wipe-off; while in the aviation sector, regular delays/cancellation of flights without notice, and damage/loss of baggage without compensation, still occur.
In the banking sector, there are regular cases of Automated Teller Machine dispense error with prolonged resolution period; Point of Sale terminal issues; and unexplained debit on customer accounts, among others. Similarly, in the power sector, outrageous estimated billing, non-provision of transformers/meters, wrongful disconnections and inadequate/erratic electricity supply contribute to consumers’ frustrations.
According to Atoki, consumers of satellite television services are also grappling with regular disruptions, wrongful disconnection, poor service delivery and lack of redress for complaints. “In the area of land transportation, overloading, non-refund of money when vehicles breakdown and use of dilapidated vehicles add to the burden of consumers of public transport services. In the property and real estate sector, developers still fail to keep to agreement terms, tie down consumers’ deposits for prolonged period and sometimes deliver substandard houses to consumers. In the hospitality industry, many hotels fail to live up to their claims/required standards, while vendors of holiday packages do not deliver on promises made.
“Also, in the food and beverage industry, cases of foreign substances in drinks, sale of expired products, adulteration and improper storage are rampant. The non-adherence to warranty/guarantee by car dealers, sale of substandard spare parts, unqualified mechanics and ill-equipped workshops result in safety issues and loss of consumers’ hard-earned money, while the sale of substandard home appliances to undiscerning consumers result in repeat purchases and exposure to unnecessary hazards.”
Atoki said the agency had begun the implementation of far-reaching strategic initiatives and sectoral interventions in order to enhance the protection of consumers’ rights across the country. Sectoral intervention has been identified as a major strategy for the evaluation of business operations under the various sectors in order to arrest, identified adverse trends and thereby resolve individual complaints in the long-run.
She said, “So far, the CPC has carried out major interventions in the food and beverage, and aviation sectors. Both involved full-scale investigations into the operations of businesses and the issuance of orders of council for appropriate remedies from different infractions. It is uncontroverted that the intervention in the food and beverage sector is modifying the behaviour of all the other players in that sector for best practice.
“In view of the low awareness of consumer rights in the country, the council is undertaking different measures to ensure increased knowledge of consumer rights and responsibilities, and improve the visibility of the council. In order to enforce consumer rights and ensure compliance with its enabling law, the council has adopted the strategy of criminal prosecution of recalcitrant businesses or litigation to achieve satisfactory redress. This has helped in achieving full compliance by businesses.”
Atoki, therefore, called for increased collaboration among the regulatory agencies across the country to ensure adequate protection of consumer rights.