FCCPC, stakeholders highlight top measures for consumer rights protection

*The Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission and other market stakeholders advocate the Nigerian consumers should explore extant regulatory provisions to protect their rights in the marketplace

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

Several Nigerians are yet to exercise their rights as consumers.

This development has given room for their exploitation by providers of products and services.

Analysts blame this age-long situation on ignorance by consumers and poor protection of the rights by the relevant regulatory agencies.

They believe that much work is required by the agencies in public enlightenment and enforcement of statutory provisions as regards consumer rights.

A lawyer, Mrs. Nneka Ugwu, told the News Agency of Nigeria, that the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act  (FCCPA) 2018 is the primary legislation that governs and protects the rights of consumers in Nigeria.

Mrs. Ugwu also noted that FCCPA, established by the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) to, among other things, prohibit unfair business practices.

According to the lawyer, several Nigerians lack adequate information that will aid them in asserting their consumer rights.

She contended “this ignorance is largely responsible for repeated breach of these rights.’

She also said that consumers of goods, electricity, medical services, etc., seem to be worst hit by rights violation.

“It is within the rights of a consumer to get free replacement for goods with warranty when they are damaged, provided that the damage falls within the terms and conditions covered by  the warranty.

“Sadly, this provision appears untapped by consumers,” stated Ugwu.

The legal professional further explained that “an Act of the National Assembly criminalises estimated billings.

“This means that it is within the rights of a consumer to seek arrest and prosecution of any official of an electricity company, who attempts illegal disconnection on grounds of non-payment of an estimated bill.”

She stated: “The question now is: How many Nigerians have effectively employed the provisions of the law in this regard?

“How many individuals have dared to seek rights enforcement for medical breach?’’

Mr. Douglas Ogbankwa, a former Publicity Secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), was quoted to have called for adequate protection of consumer rights by  FCCPC and other relevant agencies to justify public confidence in government.

Ogbankwa said: “Now is the time for consumer rights advocacy, to stop fleecing of citizens, and make sure utility providers and sellers of goods go by the books.”

He urges stakeholders to evolve adequate measures to end all forms to maltreatment of consumers of goods and services.

He noted: “For instance, if your flight, local or international, is cancelled, you are entitled to accommodation and food vouchers once there is clear evidence that you have no place to go.

“If your flight, local or international is cancelled, you are entitled to up to a thousand Dollars depending on your losses.”

The erstwhile NBA official also stated: “If you miss your flight and the airline is flying the next day, you have priority over other passengers for the next day.

“All of these are standard ICAO Regulations.”

Ogbankwa advised consumers to always insist on their rights.

An electricity Distribution Company (DisCo) cannot stop power supply to a consumer except such a customer has been issued a 30-day disconnection notice, he noted.

The legal expert said: “In addition, when there is a dispute between an electricity distribution company and a consumer, the consumer cannot be disconnected until the dispute is resolved.”

Ogbankwa urged consumers of goods and services to be knowledgeable about their rights and take advantage of legal provisions to seek their protection.

Speaking on the need to protect consumers’ rights on the marketplace, Mr. Tunde Oluwatobi, a student of  Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education, Lagos State, described the rate of violation of consumer rights in Nigeria as worrisome.

Oluwatobi related that his attempt to return an Android phone after a month of purchase, due to a defect, failed as the seller refused to collect it because the packet was torn.

He said: “I also had a case when I purchased dried fish from a mini market.

“On getting home, I discovered it was infested with maggots .

“I rushed back to the woman in the market to show her the surprise, but she asked me why I had to return it to her.

She said that she wasn’t sure it was her fish.

The student stated: “I think this whole issue of consumer rights protection is only on paper; consumers are left to fight for themselves.

“Some of these goods sellers and service providers don’t really care.”

FCCPC committed to protection of rights of consumers, competitors –Irukera

In line with the Commission’s mandate, Mr. Babatunde Irukera, Executive Vice-Chairman/Chief Executive Officer (EVC/CEO) of FCCPC, has assured the agency is determined to safeguard the rights of consumers and competitors in Nigeria.

Irukera said: “The FCCPC has a mandate to ensure that markets are fair, not distorted, and that barriers to entry, if any, are limited.

Nigerian shoes market 

“In all, we regulate markets for the primary benefit of consumers, which also redounds to the benefit of competitors.

“Our ultimate desire is for the market to be robustly competitive in a manner that promotes quality, innovation, choices, fair prices and dynamism.”

The EVC/CEO of the Commission also urged consumers and competitors should, at all times, exercise their rights.

They should report any breach of their rights, said he.

Irukera stated: “Generally, we accept complaints by walk-ins, telephone, hard mail, e-mail, but most efficiently, through the complaint resolution mechanism.

“This is available as a portal on our Web site and as an app that consumers can download unto their handheld devices.”

In his comments, Mr. Paul Umuzuruigbo, Director of Tarmac Star Nigeria Wires and Cables Limited, believes that consumers should have value for their money in the country’s economy.

Umuzuruigbo said: “It is in my best interest to ensure that my customers smile after patronising me.”

The company executive also noted that he is convinced it is the responsibility of a manufacturer of goods to make sure consumers have confidence in his  products.

“No reasonable businessman will feel happy or satisfied to see the end users of his products bite their fingers in regret for using his products.”

He further said: “Since nobody is perfect, whenever there appears to be any hiccups or complaints regarding our products, it is entirely our responsibility to immediately remedy such complaints to save our image and business.

“How we treat them determines the survival  of our business.’’

In all, analysts hope for adequate consumer rights protection in 2023, report said.

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