Courtney Matende/Kudzai Chikiwa, Business Reporters
CONSUMERS in Bulawayo and Gweru have said the proposed Consumer Protection Act should protect them from unwarranted price increases and poor service by unscrupulous businesses.
With Parliament already out this week to gather consumer input into the Consumer Protection Bill, consumers have accused businesses of exploitation, unjustified price increases, poor customer care, among others.
Contributing during a hearing meeting in Bulawayo yesterday Chairman of the Bulawayo United Residents’ Association, Mr Winos Dube, said the new law should empower the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ), which has been existing in name and not in action.
“The Bill should give them authority to regulate businesses without fear or favour. In fact let them be granted powers even to issue tickets to unscrupulous business who abuse consumer rights,” he said.
Another participant, Mr Munyaradzi Phiri, said the law should give CCZ powers to penalise businesses that deny consumers their right to return goods that are not satisfactory.
“Businesses are taking advantage of consumers, especially Chinese shops that operate on a ‘no return, no refunds’ system. This is daylight robbery because how can I fail to return a product that I am not satisfied with within 24 hours. The Bill should highlight such issues,” he said.
Other participants also said the new law should hold to account unscrupulous businesses that violate consumer rights.
They demanded that businesses be compelled to promote fair business practices by coordinating and networking consumer activities.
They expressed hope the law would transform the way producers and consumers interact.
Mr Ilos Nyoni, a member of the Portfolio Committee said the Bill, which has been on the cards for nearly a decade, would seek to protect the full rights of consumers.
“The functions of the agency are centred on the protection of consumers from unjust, unreasonable, improper and unacceptable, deceptive, unfair and fraudulent trading practices,” he said.
“Consumers will be able to go and report directly to the agency, which will have offices in all towns across the country. Long back suppliers were above consumers but with this Bill, consumers are entitled to their rights and responsibilities,” said Mr Nyoni.
He concurred that CCZ has not been able to champion consumer rights since there has not been enabling law.
“The Consumer Council of Zimbabwe has been a toothless bulldog, which was just there in name but could not help when consumer rights were violated. We did not have a specific law that is explicit in protecting consumers. We have various pieces of legislation on human rights issues but a specific law on protecting consumers is not there. The bill comes to address this,” he said.
The new law is set to repeal the Consumer Contracts Act (Chapter 8:03) and provide for matters incidental to or connected with issues of consumer protection.