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CPC decries high rate of consumer rights abuse in key sectors

by Business News Report

The Director-General, Consumer Protection Council, Mrs. Dupe Atoki, has decried the high rate of consumer rights abuses in the telecommunications, aviation, banking and power sectors of the Nigerian economy. Atoki 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, noting that the Council had adopted the strategy of criminal prosecution of recalcitrant businesses or litigation to achieve satisfactory redress.
She spoke on Monday in Lagos, during a public lecture on “The State of Consumer Rights Protection in Nigeria, organised by the Centre For Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Lagos. She said, “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, damage/loss of baggage without compensation, still occur.”
“In the banking sector, there are regular cases of Automated Teller Machine (ATM) dispense error cases with prolonged resolution period; Point of Sales (POS) 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.”
Atoki noted that consumers of Satellite Television Services were also grappling with regular disruptions, wrongful disconnection, poor service delivery and lack of redress for complaints. She added, “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 standard, 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.”

However, the CPC DG said that 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.

According to her, 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 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 the Council’s 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 regulatory agencies across the country to ensure adequate protection of consumer rights. She said, “Market failures violate consumers’ rights and inhibit their welfare in the marketplace. Impunity of businesses, rivalry among regulatory bodies due to seeming overlapping functions and protection of self-interest by trade associations are part of the challenges inhibiting the effective protection of Nigerian consumers.
Genuine businesses must comply with regulations and specified standards for goods and services in the country. Efforts must be made by regulatory agencies to collaborate with one another in order foster seamless relationships in the regulation of businesses to ensure effective protection of consumers.”

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