The dire situation created by the pandemic should be taken up as a challenge for Government to express a firm commitment to enhance consumer rights and consumer protection. We expect Government to express a strong political will to protect consumers.
It is unanimously agreed that the current consumer protection legislation framework needs urgent revision. Action initiated in 2010, to replace the present legislation by a new Consumer Protection and Fair Trading Act has still not seen any concrete action on the part of Government.
It should be recalled that in 2007, the then government announced a new consumer protection bill. In December 2014, the bill went for second reading in Parliament, only to be set aside after the dissolution of Parliament. Since the new government took office, for a whole five-year mandate, the bill was never to be seen. Hence, for the past 13 years, consumers, consumer associations as well as the Chamber of Commerce have been taken for a ride by two successive governments.
Consumers need to be reassured that Government is committed to protect consumers.
This was the main proposal to the Minister of Finance during the recent pre-budget consultations. We are urging Government to set up a strong legal framework which will provide for innovative policies to be implemented.
Along the same lines, we are also urging for the setting up of a strong consumer protection agency, along the same line as the Competition Commission. We are urging for the creation of an Independent Consumer Commission which will ensure consumer protection and advocacy and ensure consumers rights are upheld in every aspect of consumer affairs and by all ministries. Such a Consumer Commission will also have the powers to enforce the legislation with the support of a Consumer Tribunal.
Furthermore, CAP avers that it is high time for Government to formulate a comprehensive National Consumer Policy. The absence of such a policy deprives consumers of their basic rights in many sectors. CAP is urging Government to enhance consumer protection in this country to Comesa and UNCTAD levels.