Unfair trade practices: Dr. Runyowa gives perspectives from the Ministry of Industry and Commerce


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Following an upsurge in unfair trade practices in the market, Dr. Douglas Runyowa, the Chief Director for Commerce and Consumer Affairs in the Ministry of Industry and Commerce shared perspectives on protecting consumers.

Below are some of the questions posed to Dr. Runyowa and his reactions:

1.0     How does the Ministry’s Mandate augur well with issues of Consumer Protection?

The Ministry of Industry and Commerce is mandated to modernise and grow the local industry to enhance its competitiveness and also to improve consumer welfare and economic growth through the Consumer Protection Act [Chapter 14:44] and the Trade Measures Act [Chapter 14:23] among others.

1.1     What has been the feedback from your Market Surveillance?

The Ministry through its routine inspections and robust market surveillance systems has noted several growing unethical practices in retail and wholesale shops throughout the country. Such practices include the selling of underweight products, expired goods improperly packaged and unlabelled goods, and in extreme cases unlicensed goods that pose a hazard to human beings as they have not been cleared nor tested by the health authorities. The non -compliance levels in most semi-formal shops have been very high in some instances to over 60% and this is untenable.

1.2     What has been the Ministry’s Response Strategy

The Ministry’s Response Strategy has been multi-pronged and we have generally adopted a 3E’s plus 2 P’s approach whereby we are:

E: –    Engaging Business Operators through their Business Member Organisations from Manufacturers to retailers and Distributors and Wholesalers to abide by the standing rules through continuous dialogue.

E: –    Empowering our Consumers who in most cases bear the brunt of such unfair trade practices. To this end, we have translated the Consumer Protection Act into more than six indigenous languages including Braille to ensure the message reaches all in the language they understand. We are also undertaking awareness programs in various provinces and in this quarter alone we have undertaken over 100 consumer awareness programs in all the provinces countrywide. We want consumers to know and demand their rights as they engage in business.

E: –    Educating the individual companies visited on the precincts of the law including reaching out to members of the media, parliamentarians community leaders, and the public at large.

P: –    Penalties- As we undertake our inspections, we have also penalised errant business players in numerous hotspots we have identified. In May alone the Trade Measures has inspected 5104 products for weights and measurements and issued 11030 penalties on non-compliant products. Equally, the Consumer Protection Commission has to date undertaken a total of 1903 compliance checks were undertaken by and 691 businesses were issued with compliance notices

P: –    Prosecution- A total of 1309 businesses were prosecuted for various offences such as selling expired products.   In addition, 688 businesses were also issued with compliance notices for non-display of product prices in local currency and most were referred to the Financial Intelligence Unit. We have also recalled expired products from the market in line with the Consumer Protection Act.

1.3 What’s your parting Message to Consumers and Businesses alike?

We want to continuously call upon businesses to adhere to good ethics and shun indiscipline, which attracts punitive measures. Equally, consumers who are affected by any such practices must report these to the Consumer Protection Commission and Trade Measures Department Officers located at the Ministry of Industry and Commerce Offices throughout the whole country for redress of consumer rights violations.