The Caretaker Minister for Trade and Industry, Samuel A. Jinapor, has revealed that plans are underway to draft a comprehensive consumer protection law for the country.
In a speech to Parliament on Wednesday, February 15, 2023, the Minister announced that a new Consumer Protection Bill is complete and will soon be submitted to Cabinet for consideration, and then to Parliament for passage.
His presentation was in honour of Consumer Rights Day, which is observed on March 15th each year.
He argued that in today’s world, everyone relies on the goods and services provided by others, making it critical to protect consumers’ interests and ensure fair trading.
He went on to say that the current legal and regulatory framework for the protection of consumer rights is fragmented, with different bodies overseeing different aspects of consumer protection.
He stated that the current state of affairs is unsatisfactory and has resulted in a significant portion of the market remaining unregulated, resulting in a constant violation of consumer rights with no adequate remedy.
He identified jurisdictional conflict among the various regulators on consumer protection, lack of consumer awareness, lack of access to the courts, and absence of low-cost, quick, and accessible fora and methods for resolution of consumer complaints, as some of the challenges with consumer protection in the country.
Drawing from international best practices, the Minister said the world is at a stage where a single legislation on consumer protection, with a single consumer protection authority, is the norm.
He said the overarching objective of the Bill, which is ready for Cabinet, is to protect, secure and defend the rights of consumers, through a structured institutional mechanism and legal framework, that will ensure that consumers play a significant role in keeping erring businesses in check, promote competition, and ensure regional integration through digital trade and e-commerce.
When passed, the law will also create a Consumer Protection Authority to facilitate consumer redress, establish codes of practice on advertising and labelling, educate consumers on their rights, strengthen consumer-oriented organizations, and ensure effective representation of consumers in decision-making bodies.
The Minister called on Parliament to support the Bill when presented to the House to ensure effective and adequate protection for the rights of consumers.