Consumer protection policy to address unfair practices

Windhoek-The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Trade, Industrialisation and SME Development, Gabriel Sinimbo, says it is an undisputed fact that some products and services offered by some suppliers are sub-standard. It is for this very reason that the National Consumer Protection Policy was introduced with the purpose of ensuring consumers get value for money.

Cabinet has approved the policy for implementation and directed Minister of Industrialisation, Trade and SME Development Immanuel Ngatjizeko to table the policy in the National Assembly when parliament resumes.

Sinimbo said the policy is designed to prevent businesses that engage in fraud or specified unfair practices from gaining an advantage over competitors, and provides additional protection for the weak, which has both direct and indirect impacts on the consumer.

The main objective of the policy is to encourage both domestic and international consumers to invest and participate in the economic growth and prosperity of Namibia.

Sinimbo said consumer protection laws are designed to increase the transparency of consumer market transactions and thus decrease the incentives for engaging in deceptive or unfair practices.

If effectively enforced, Sinimbo said, these laws could increase the confidence of consumers, sellers and investors in the openness and fairness of consumer markets, and thus increase economic activity in these markets.

Further, he noted, the policy aims to enhance consumer rights through access to comprehensive information on the products and services offered while also advocating ethical behaviour in advertised products and services.

The need to protect consumers arises from the imbalanced relationship between consumers and suppliers. It is evident that suppliers are in a dominant position. The need to protect consumers is also because consumers may have the necessary information to exercise their choices, but factors such as the level of literacy and level of affordability may hinder consumers to make informed choices, he stated.

He said consumers have the right to basic goods and services which guarantee survival, the right to be protected against dishonest or misleading advertising or labelling, and the right to choose products and services at competitive prices, with an assurance of satisfactory quality, amongst a wide array of rights which are unfortunately unknown to the masses.

Since this is a new policy as it was recently approved by Cabinet, Sinimbo said the operationalization of the policy would lead to putting in place an appropriate law and an institutional framework, which would make it easier for the ministry to establish which sector generates the most complaints from consumers with respect to products and services.

He maintained that the policy in its current form does not stipulate punitive measures, however the punitive measures would be provided in the Act and regulations.

Source: New Era Newspaper Namibia