FROM FAKE PROPHETS TO FAKE GOODS Your gro­ceries are in dan­ger

The Sunday Mail (Zimbabwe) - - SOCIETY - Em­manuel Kafe

THE Christ­mas shop­ping sea­son has be­gun in earnest, amid grow­ing con­cerns over the sprout­ing of falsely branded con­sumer goods.

The goods, which are of­ten of an in­fe­rior qual­ity to the real brands, are sold un­der es­tab­lished brand names without brand own­ers’ au­thor­ity.

In­ves­ti­ga­tions car­ried by The Sun­day Mail Society re­vealed an in­crease in the num­ber of falsely branded prod­ucts that are be­ing sold to un­sus­pect­ing con­sumers.

The pro­lif­er­a­tion of these goods has largely been at­tributed to re­cent price in­creases and the un­avail­abil­ity of cer­tain items in shops.

Among the goods are elec­tri­cal ap­pli­ances, mo­tor ve­hi­cle parts and food­stuffs.

There has been a sug­ges­tion that the pro­lif­er­a­tion of falsely branded elec­tri­cal goods is be­hind the in­crease in elec­tri­cal fires.

As for mo­tor ve­hi­cle parts, many con­sumers pre­fer sec­ond-hand orig­i­nals as they fear buy­ing in­fe­rior im­i­ta­tions.

The telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions sec­tor has not been spared ei­ther, with coun­ter­feit branded mo­bile phones find­ing their way onto the mar­ket.

The same goes for seed maize, and bev­er­ages, both al­co­holic and non-al­co­holic.

Cook­ing gas cylin­ders, build­ing ma­te­ri­als, body and hair creams, keys and locks, and con­fec­tioner­ies have not been spared.

The poul­try in­dus­try has been the lat­est ca­su­alty, with day-old broiler chicks that re­main stunted de­spite reg­u­lar feed­ing con­found­ing cit­i­zens.

The agro-chem­i­cal in­dus­tries is one of the hard­est hit, with falsely branded her­bi­cides on sale.

An­other ma­jor sec­tor that has been af­fected is that of medicines, with anti-bi­otics, anti-retro­vi­rals, skin light­en­ers and sex-en­hancers be­ing tar­geted by those who falsely brand prod­ucts.

Tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances are mak­ing it pos­si­ble for un­scrupu­lous traders to im­i­tate cer­ti­fi­ca­tion marks.

Con­sump­tion of coun­ter­feit branded prod­ucts com­pro­mises the health of con­sumers. Al­though the Stan­dards As­so­ci­a­tion of Zim­babwe (SAZ) has come up with stamps that are meant to sep­a­rate gen­uine prod­ucts from fakes, sev­eral fac­tors en­sure il­licit trade con­tin­ues.

Al­though the Con­sumer Coun­cil of Zim­babwe is aware of the pres­ence of fake prod­ucts on the mar­ket, its ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, Ms Rose­lyne Siy­a­chitema, says her or­gan­i­sa­tion is yet to carry in­ves­ti­ga­tions that will de­ter­mine the ex­tent of the prob­lem.

“This prob­lem is not new. We are, how­ever, yet to carry out the research and in­ves­ti­ga­tions that will un­ravel the ex­tent of this prob­lem,” Ms Siy­a­chitema said. Com­ment­ing on the same sub­ject last year, Ms Siy­a­chitema high­lighted that her or­gan­i­sa­tion’s hands are tied as the or­gan­i­sa­tion can only as­sume an ad­vi­sory role since it not does not have a polic­ing arm. “We know that there are fake prod­ucts out there. The CCZ does not, how­ever, have a polic­ing arm. What we sim­ply do is alert the rel­e­vant agen­cies and they are the ones that will take ac­tion. As for the con­sumers, we can only tell them to stop us­ing the fake prod­ucts,” Ms Siy­a­chitema said.

Ms Siy­a­chitema, how­ever, blamed con­sumers for buy­ing prod­ucts that they know are not gen­uine.

“Con­sumers have their rights and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. If in­deed they are con­sum­ing fake prod­ucts, then they are also equally to blame. I ad­vise con­sumers not to buy banned prod­ucts since they will be ex­pos­ing their health to great risk,” Ms Siy­a­chitema said.

The CCZ has been in the fore­front in the craft­ing of the pro­posed Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion Act.

The Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion Bill is yet to be passed into law.

If passed into law, the act, which seeks to deal with con­sumer com­plaints and cases, will go a long way in safe­guard­ing the in­ter­ests of the con­sumers.

Con­sumer watch­dogs have been lob­by­ing Gov­ern­ment to come up with an ef­fi­cient reg­u­la­tory frame­work which will pro­tect con­sumers.

The Stan­dards As­so­ci­a­tion of Zim­babwe is bat­tling to mon­i­tor goods that get into the coun­try to en­sure that they are in line with con­sumer ex­pec­ta­tions and also ac­cord­ing to set stan­dards.

Some of the chal­lenges that the en­forc­ing agen­cies are fac­ing are re­lated to a lack of fund­ing.

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