CPC highlights new deals for consumers in proposed amendment bill
As the House Committee on Commerce last weekend organized a Public Hearing for the amendment of the Consumer Protection Council (CPC) Act of 1992, the Council has unfolded new deals for improved consumer welfare in its proposed amendment bill.
The Council’s Director General, Mrs. Dupe Atoki, recalled the organisation’s past efforts at reviewing the bill as dating back to Year 2003 and that the Council’s presentation to the House Committee’s Public Hearing was a harmonized version of the two bills presented by two members of the House and its own that is before the Senate.
Mrs. Atoki highlighted some of the specific benefits accruable to the consumers, which she said would further aid the interactions between consumers and product/service providers, in favour of the consumers.
Expatiating further, she said “For the first time in Nigeria certain specific rights of consumers are defined for codification”, listing those rights as including consumers’ right to disclosure and information; right to choice; right to fair and responsible marketing; right to fair and honest dealing; right to fair, just and reasonable terms and conditions; and the right to fair value, good quality and safety.
According to her, clear definition of these rights is important to consumer awareness and the enforcement of consumer rights, stressing that under the proposed bill the consumer has a right to return and collect a refund for an unsuitable or defective product, which the consumer had purchased, notwithstanding exemption clauses like ‘once tested and taken away cannot be returned’.
She also pointed out that under the proposed bill, an elaborate and well articulated redress system, dedicated specifically to consumer issues has been set out and that under this section, aggrieved consumers can enforce their rights either by themselves or through the instrumentality of the Council, civil society groups, the courts or an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) agent, making the enforcement faster.
The Director General stated that, apart from an elaborate redress system provided for consumers, institutions such as Negotiating, Mediation and Conciliation Tribunal, mobile and small claims courts for the protection of consumer rights and the resolution of small consumer claims, have been included in the proposed amendment.
Also included in the proposed document, she said, are provisions capable of tackling consumer abuses that may arise from on-line marketing, which are completely lacking in the Council’s existing legislation, noting further that internet fraud and identity theft, which have become endemic would be prevented.
Mrs. Atoki further hinted that the proposed amendment has also provided for wider and more clearly defined powers of investigations and 10 additional functions for the Council to check the activities of unscrupulous producers of products and services in the country.
She said the proposed bill would also add value to the industry, improve standards as well as encourage healthy competition and the achievement of a fair and competitive market, assuring that it would also greatly tackle counterfeiting and faking.
Earlier, the Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr. Samuel Ortom, said the bill, when passed into law will correct many of the weaknesses inherent in the current legislation, hindering the effective performance of the Council.
The minister, who said “the Ministry is eagerly waiting for the enactment of this bill” disclosed that “emerging technological changes, new trading methods, patterns and agreements have brought about new challenges to consumers of goods and services in Nigeria, making it necessary to develop and employ further innovative ways to protect the interests of consumers”.
The Chairman, House Committee on Commerce, Honourable Sylvester Ogbaga, while conducting the affairs of the Public Hearing, expressed happiness over the level of participation of stakeholders at the event, promising that his committee would be thorough in the assignment.
The Public Hearing was attended by many stakeholders, industry operators and professional associations, many of whom expressed support for the review of the law.