Farirai Machivenyika, Harare Bureau
The Consumer Protection Act signed into law last year to protect consumers’ rights will equally revitalise industry and help provide quality goods and services, President Mnangagwa said yesterday at a ceremony to ensure the law was used and was fully active.
The ceremony was attended by Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, Vice President Kembo Mohadi, several ministers and other senior Government officials.
The Consumer Protection Act replaced the Consumer Contracts Act.
Under the provisions of the new law, unscrupulous businesspeople that engage in unfair practices that include multi-tier pricing, fraudulent offers, failure to label products properly and the disclosure of consumers’ personal information to third parties will be liable for prosecution.
Consumers are now entitled to be fully refunded for defective or sub-standard goods and can individually approach the courts for redress or refer their complaints to the Consumer Protection Commission set up in the new Act.
The direct requirements for producers and retailers and the enforcement of consumer rights together apply pressure on producers to provide quality goods and services.
The commission will enforce the Act through investigators and inspectors deployed across the country and will be aided by consumer advocacy organisations who, through a statutory instrument still to be crafted, will be designated to conduct conciliation and arbitration of disputes between parties.
A Consumer Protection Fund will be established concurrently with the Commission to fund its operations.
The President assented to the law in December last year and in his address yesterday said the legislation would ensure a fair, efficient and transparent market.
“As we accelerate programmes to modernise and industrialise our country for sustainable economic growth, the enactment of the Act was timely,” he said.
“It takes a holistic and a forward-looking approach to ensure that industry offers cutting-edge products and vibrant services to society while inspiring creativity and innovation.
“The milestone achievement further attests to my Government’s commitment to reforms and adoption of responsive policies which meet contemporary realities.”
President Mnangagwa said the country was signatory to UN guidelines and the Sadc Declaration on Regional Competition and remained committed to protection and promotion of health, safety and the rights of consumers.
“As our economy grows, it is vital for our consumers to hold the market accountable for its actions or omissions. In our drive to inculcate excellent services and quality goods, there is need for a rapid alert system with regards undesirable and hazardous, goods and services.
“Furthermore, rogue traders and unfair commercial practices must be stopped so that only safe and quality products and services are on the market for our people,” he said
The President wants consumer protection advocacy groups to use the mechanisms and framework in the Act to promote good governance and administration of consumer related issues and constructive sectoral engagement and dialogue.
Government and other stakeholders should carry out consumer protection awareness programmes across the country especially into the provisions in the Act so that all are aware of their rights and responsibilities.
With the increased use of information, communication technology to conduct business and market products and services to consumers, President Mnangagwa said there was also need to put mechanisms to regulate the practice.
“We must guarantee safety, predictability, transparency and consistency for the benefit of both consumers and our economy as a whole from the use of digital platforms,” President Mnangagwa said.
He commended industry for adapting to the changing operational environment brought about by Covid-19 and the economically stable environment now prevailing should give impetus to industry and commerce to provide quality goods and services.
“I challenge stakeholders to always act in the national interest informed by the overarching need to improve the quality of life of our citizenry. Let us be pro-active with regards to how we conduct business and trade,” he said.
In his remarks, VP Chiwenga said the consolidation of legislation protecting consumers’ rights brought to the fore the globally accepted practice that the consumer is the king. The law would also bring fairness and transparency in the market.
Industry and Commerce Minister Dr Sekai Nzenza said protection of consumers was necessary as they were the drivers of industry and commerce.
“Consumers drive the economic development. Without consumers there will be no markets,” she said.
Consumer Council of Zimbabwe chairman Mr Philip Bvumbe thanked President Mnangagwa and Government for enacting the law after many years of lobbying for such a piece of legislation.
Meanwhile, the President yesterday pledged to pay school fees for three Harare triplets, Tanyaradzwa, Anesuishe and Ruvarashe Chandavengerwa, who performed a poem during the ceremony.
The three are in Grade Five at Crowhill Primary School.