Hefty fines for price hikes

The Sunday Mail (Zimbabwe) - - FRONT PAGE - De­bra Matabvu

RE­TAIL­ERS and man­u­fac­tur­ers who in­crease prices of goods and ser­vices with­out jus­ti­fi­ca­tion will face heavy Gov­ern­ment fines un­der a new con­sumer pro­tec­tion law that fos­ters fair busi­ness prac­tices.

Cab­i­net re­cently ap­proved prin­ci­ples of the Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion Bill, which will be tabled be­fore Par­lia­ment soon.

The pro­posed law, which has been in the works for some time, co­in­cides with a re­cent bout of ar­bi­trary price in­creases by re­tail­ers.

The new law will give bite to the Con­sumer Coun­cil of Zim­babwe, which has largely been viewed as a tooth­less bull­dog.

The law crim­i­nalises the prac­tice of re­tail­ers and man­u­fac­tur­ers forc­ing con­sumers to buy ex­tra goods in or­der to pur­chase a sin­gle item. Not dis­play­ing prices on shop shelves will also be­come an of­fence.

Fur­ther­more, the law seeks to pro­hibit tele-mar­ket­ing of goods and ser­vices by re­tail­ers and man­u­fac­tur­ers with­out con­sumers’ per­mis­sion.

Breach­ing the law will at­tract de­ter­rent penal­ties that range from fines to with­drawal of trad­ing li­cences.

In­dus­try and Com­merce Deputy Min­is­ter Mr Raji Modi told The Sun­day Mail last week that Gov­ern­ment would fast-track the law as it was over­due.

He said, “Ev­ery­thing is now in or­der. The Bill is ready and now awaits to go to Par­lia­ment. The Bill has been on hold for quite some time now; thus, Gov­ern­ment is go­ing to work with speed so that it be­comes law.

“We want to cre­ate a law for con­sumer pro­tec­tion like most coun­tries have done, a law that will give teeth to the Con­sumer Coun­cil (of Zim­babwe) to make sure there are no un­fair busi­ness prac­tices and un­jus­ti­fied price in­creases.”

Through the new law, it will be­come pos­si­ble, Deputy Min­is­ter Modi said, to rein in busi­nesses that prof­i­teer at con­sumers’ ex­pense. “The law will be able to take cer­tain

ac­tion where ap­pro­pri­ate. For ex­am­ple, at the mo­ment, when there are un­war­ranted price (in­creases), there is noth­ing much that can be done, the best they can do is just com­plain about that and it ends there.

“All along we have been work­ing on this Bill and it now awaits the process of be­ing tabled in Par­lia­ment,” he said.

CCZ ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Ms Rose­mary Siy­a­chitema said the law would pro­tect con­sumers.

“This will be a na­tional law that will have a body which will have pow­ers to pros­e­cute and in­car­cer­ate per­pe­tra­tors of such crimes,” she said.

“Now con­sumers have a law to fall back on as all along we used moral sua­sion. We now have a law to fall on. We are glad that as CCZ, we have been part of mak­ing the law.” Some re­tail­ers have been de­mand­ing pay­ment in US dol­lars only.

To cush­ion con­sumers and re­store san­ity in the mar­ket, Gov­ern­ment last week in­tro­duced a price mon­i­tor­ing sys­tem along the pro­duc­tion value chain from man­u­fac­tur­ers to re­tail­ers.

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