Economy

Consumer protection law in the offing

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By Eugene Davis

A legislation that seeks to safeguard the rights of consumers is being worked on and expected to be laid in parliament soon, caretaker Minister for Trade and Industry, Samuel Abu Jinapor, has announced.

Hitherto, consumers had no remedy over unfair trade practices, but with the new bill in the offing and being the first of its kind, it become significant for people and businesses.  

Presenting a statement on the floor of the House on yesterday, Mr. Jinapor stated that most countries have Consumer Protection Policies and Legislation that secure the rights of consumers against unfair practices.

He cited instances such as Australia’s Competition and Consumer Act, 2010; Canada’s Consumer Product Safety Act, 2010; the UK’s Consumer Rights Act, 2015; South Africa’s Consumer Protection Act, 2018; and India’s Consumer Protection Act, 2019.

He added that most jurisdictions also have special bodies that deal with consumer protection, citing the Competition and Consumer Commission of Australia, the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission of Nigeria, the Competition Commission of Kenya, and the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore as examples.

Ghana’s attempt to protect consumers predate attainment of independence, with statutes like the Weights and Measures Ordinance, 1896 (Cap 188) and the Control of Prices Regulations, 1949 (No. 25 of 1949).

Despite several efforts by successive governments, the minister said the country has not been able to develop over the years a single legislation for the protection of consumers.

Currently, the country’s legal and regulatory framework for the protection of consumer rights is fragmented in difference pieces of legislation. Amongst them being the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission Act, 1997 (Act 538), the National Petroleum Authority Act, 2005 (Act 691), the Electronic Communications Act, 2008 (Act 775), the Public Health Act, 2012 (Act 851), and, recently, the Ghana Standards Authority Act, 2022 (Act 1078).

Addressing the Parliamentary Press Corps (PPC) after he presented his statement, Mr. Jinapor said “I will sign it off in cabinet and they will examine it, and we hope that they will approve it, which will mean that we will come back to this House and I see that the sentiments in parliament suggest that there will be a lot of enthusiasm and support for this kind of legislative intervention.

Hopefully, when we are able to pass it through parliament, Ghana will for the first time have a Consumer Protection Right Act. We will have a piece of legislation which deals with consumer protection and culminate into having a state agency which will be responsible for ensuring that we protect consumers in our country, that is the gist of what I came to say in parliament.

I know that I am not going to be long at the Ministry of Trade but we have to begin and I have no doubt that the trade minister designate will drag this when he gets into office.

This is such a crucial intervention that is long overdue and all of us have an example of having being shortchanged or having procured a good or service and didn’t get what they paid for or value for money and yet didn’t have remedy and were left to themselves.”

Further, the minister indicated that due to the absence of a legislation, it has led to a significant part of the market remaining unregulated in terms of consumer protection, leading to a constant violation of consumer rights without adequate remedy.

In those areas that seem to be regulated, there are instances of jurisdictional conflict among the various regulators, leaving the consumer with no remedy. “In short, consumers are not getting value for money.”

Mr. Jinapor also added that these complexities, coupled with the general lack of consumer awareness, lack of access to the courts absence of low-cost, quick, and accessible fora and methods for resolution of consumer complaints, low levels of consumer activism, and considerable institutional capacity constraints, require a legislative intervention to ensure that the rights of consumers are adequately protected.

On 15th March 2023, the world will be celebrating Consumer Rights Day, a day set aside to raise global awareness about consumer rights and needs, to advocate for the respect and protection of the rights of all consumers, and to protest against market abuses and social injustices that undermine consumer rights.

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