With most countries in the world inclined towards free trade and investments, producers of goods and services are wont to abuse their dominant position to the detriment of the consumers.
It is in reaction to this that consumer rights and consumer protection issues have always occupied the front burner. Many countries have taken significant steps to clearly outline the rights of the consumer and lay down sanctions against those who contravene these regulations.
March 15th is set aside every year to commemorate and promote the basic rights of all consumers by the international community. It is celebrated as a day to demand that those rights be respected and upheld. It basically reminds policy makers, consumers, and other stakeholders that an ample amount of consumer protection adds to the peace, socio-economic prosperity and most importantly, safety of everyone.
A quick search on Consumer International, a global federation of consumer organizations founded in 1960, that serves as an independent and influential voice for consumers reveals that; this year’s World Consumer Rights Day global theme is “Tackling Plastic Pollution” which is aimed at raising awareness, and engaging consumers globally to adopt, and promote more sustainable practices.
This will also focus on the central role that consumer advocates, governments, and businesses can play in tackling the global plastic pollution crisis that is rife in the realities of today’s world.
The theme for this year is quite apt in light of the prevailing circumstances, and also considering the negative impact plastic pollution has on marine life. The United Nations has estimated that about 5.25 million plastic particles weighing about 268,940 tonnes are currently floating the world oceans.
Many governments are already making plans to outrightly ban the use of un-recyclable plastics, and Nigeria is still lagging behind in curbing the use of and disposal of plastic materials. There is need for urgent policy intervention as well as rigorous grassroots enlightenment and sensitization on the use, recycling, and disposal of plastic and non-plastic wastes.
Equally important as this year’s theme, is the dire need to raise the level of awareness amongst Nigerian consumers on their rights, and its enforcement which is abysmally low even in light of the provisions of the Federal Competition, and Consumer Protection Act. The increase in trade and commerce-online and offline has increased the propensity for consumer rights to be trampled upon without anyone doing as much as raising an eyebrow.
Indeed, the FCCPA has made bounteous provisions regarding the protection of the rights of consumers. The Act defines consumers as those who purchase or offers to purchase solely for their immediate use and consumption; or a person to whom a service is rendered (S.167 FCCPA). Below is a quick run through of consumers ‘fundamental’ rights as espoused by the Act covering (S. 114 to S.133 FCCPA).
Right to receive information in plain and understandable language
No goods shall be displayed without adequate notice of the price to the consumer and the consumer shall not be required to pay higher than the displayed price
A consumer has a right to adequate trade description and to have goods labelled or described as to the number, quality, and quantity of the goods
Secondhand, rebuilt, re-conditioned or re-made goods must be conspicuously displayed
A consumer is entitled to have a detailed written record of every transaction made
A consumer shall not be given a pre-condition to be fulfilled before a transaction can be entered for the supply of goods or services.
A consumer shall have the right to cancel any advance booking, reservation or order for any goods or services, subject to a reasonable charge for cancellation of the order or reservation by the supplier or service provider
Where a consumer has agreed to purchase goods solely on the basis of a description or sample, or both provided by the supplier, the goods delivered to the consumer shall in all material respects and characteristics, correspond to that which an ordinary alert consumer would have been entitled to expect based on the description, or on a reasonable examination of the sample, as the case may be
A consumer has the right to reject goods: –
Where the goods are intended to satisfy a particular purpose, which is communicated to the supplier and upon delivery, the goods are not fit for that purpose.
Where the consumer did not have the opportunity of examining the goods before purchase (e.g., in e-commerce transactions) and upon delivery the goods do not match the sample and/or description or they do not meet up to the quality and type envisaged in the sales agreement.
Where the goods are defective and unsafe.
Where a consumer returns goods in any of these circumstances the consumer is entitled to a full refund of money paid for the goods.
A producer, importer, distributor, retailer, trader or service provider shall not, in pursuance of trade and for the purpose of promoting or marketing, directly or indirectly, goods or services, imply any false or incorrect representation concerning those goods.
An undertaking (“this includes a seller, supplier, distributor, importer and a manufacturer”) or any person acting on its behalf shall not use physical force, coercion, undue influence or pressure, harassment, unfair tactics or any other similar conduct against any person in connection with-
marketing of any goods or services;
supply of goods or services to a consumer;
negotiation, conclusion, execution or enforcement of an agreement to supply any goods or services to a consumer;
demand for, or collection of, payment for goods or services by a consumer; or
the conduct of a legitimate business transaction.
An undertaking (“this includes a seller, supplier, distributor, importer and a manufacturer”) shall not directly or indirectly express or imply a false, misleading or deceptive representation concerning a material fact to a consumer or prospective consumer.
A business or supplier of goods and services shall not supply, offer to supply, market or negotiate goods and services to consumers in a manner and/or for prices that are unfair, unreasonable and unjust
Any notice to consumers or potential consumers, or provisions of a consumer agreement, which purports to limit in any way the risk or liability of an undertaking supplying goods or services shall be drawn to the attention of the consumer in a conspicuous manner
When an undertaking agrees to perform any service for or on behalf of a consumer, the consumer has a right to the timely performance and completion of those services, and timely notice of any unavoidable delay in the performance of the services.
Every consumer has a right to receive goods that are reasonably suitable for the purposes for which they are generally intended.
Generally, a consumer may seek to enforce any right by resolving the issue with; an undertaking or by referring the matter to the applicable industry sector regulator with jurisdiction, or by filing a complaint directly with the Commission.
Notwithstanding the above, a consumer can directly approach a court with appropriate jurisdiction to seek redress when there’s an infringement.
As this year’s celebrations are underway, it is pertinent for the government, consumer rights advocates and other stakeholders to key into this year’s theme towards ensuring a more efficient usage and disposal of plastic wastes. Also, consumers must educate themselves on the rights owed to them by business owners and suppliers of goods and services. Overall, these will in effect ensure the safety of consumers and the safety of our environment from the menace of pollution by plastic waste materials.
By Mohammed Nasir Ibrahim.
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