The Role of Consumer Protection Agency and the Judiciary on Consumer Protection
A consumer can be defined as someone who acquires goods or services for direct use or ownership rather than for resale or use in production and manufacturing. Consumer protection consists of laws and organizations designed to ensure the rights of consumers as well as fair trade competition and the free flow of truthful information in the marketplace.
The laws are designed to prevent businesses that engage in fraud or specified unfair practices from gaining an advantage over competitors and may provide additional protection for the weak and those unable to take care of themselves. Consumer protection laws are a form of government regulation which aims to protect the rights of consumers. For example, a government may require businesses to disclose detailed information about products—particularly in areas where safety or public health is an issue, such as food.
Consumer protection is linked to the idea of “consumer rights” (that consumers have various rights as consumers), and to the formation of consumer organizations, which help consumers make better choices in the marketplace and get help with consumer complaints. Other organizations that promote consumer protection include government organizations and self-regulating business organizations such as consumer protection agencies and organizations, the Federal Trade Commission etc.
Consumer interests can also be protected by promoting competition in the markets which directly and indirectly serve consumers, consistent with economic efficiency. In Nigeria, the major Consumer Protection Agency saddled with this responsibility is the Consumer Protection Council (CPC). Consumer Protection Council (CPC) is a Parastatal of the Federal Government of Nigeria, supervised by the Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment. Though established by Act No. 6 of1992, it commenced operations only in 1999, when its institutional framework was put in place.
The mandate of CPC is to, among others, eliminate hazardous products from the market, provide speedy redress to consumers complaints, undertake campaigns which would lead to increased consumer awareness, ensure that consumers’ interest receive due consideration at the appropriate forum, and encourage trade, industry and professional associations to develop and enforce in their various fields uality standards designed to safeguard the interest of consumers.
While using all legitimate means to eliminate the scourge of consumer rights abuse in the Nigerian market place, it is common knowledge that an uninformed consumer population cannot be effectively protected if they do not know that they have rights, what the rights are, and how the rights could be protected. On the other hand, businesses and organizations also need to be well acquainted with their obligations to consumers.
Based on this, the CPC serves to effectively police the market, sensitizing consumers to their rights and responsibilities and at the same time ensuring that businesses are committed to fulfilling their obligations to consumers. This is all in a bid to ensure that the country would become a better consumer-friendly nation. Consumers are entitled to a variety or rights, and the Consumer Protection Council and other consumer protection agencies serve to create awareness of these rights.
All of which must be insisted upon, and most of which are stated below: 1. The Right to Satisfaction of Basic Needs: Access to basic goods and services necessary for survival, such as food, water, energy, clothing, shelter, health-care, education and sanitation. Goods and services must meet the standard of quality promised such that there is value for money in the purchase. 2. The Right to Safety: Protection from hazardous products, production processes and services.
The Right to Information: Provision of information enabling informed consumer choice as well as protection from misleading or inaccurate advertising and labeling. 4. The Right to Choose: Access to variety of quality products and services at competitive prices. 5. The Right to Redress: Compensation for misrepresentation, shoddy goods and unsatisfactory public and private services, including the right to adequate legal representation. 6. The Right to Consumer Education: Acquisition of the skills required to be an informed consumer throughout life. 7.
The Right to Consumer Representation: Advocacy of consumers’ interest and the ability to take part in the formulation of economic and other policies affecting consumers i. e. the right to be heard. 8. The Right to a Healthy Environment: Habitation is a place that is safe for present and future generations and which will enhance the quality of their lives. On its own part, the Judiciary is defined as the system of courts of justice in the country, and serves to ensure that all laws regarding consumer protection are enforced and strictly adhered to, and stiff penalties are meted out to defaulters.
The laws, terms and conditions regarding consumer protection are reflected in The Consumer Protection Council Act (1992 No 66), where control of key aspects of consumer protection such as sales promotions, advertisements, products and services monitoring and regulation are explicitly stated. For instance, in the case of sales promotions, The Consumer Protection Council Act grants authority to the CPC to verify the genuineness of all sales promotions, ensuring that they are within legal, decent, honest and faithful limits, and ensure their direct supervision.
The judiciary metes out penalties to erring parties which could be in the form of suspension for a definite period of time, fines and/or direct prohibition of activity. These, to a large extent are aimed at regulating and controlling the excesses of manufacturers, advertisers and consumers and ensure that all practices concerned are within legal and permissible limits, and is especially necessary in countries such as Nigeria because the global crisis has made ready markets in developed countries to look for emerging markets with a huge population base to dump their products, and Nigeria fits the description of such emerging market.
The judiciary, through the enforcement of The Consumer Protection Council Act (1992 No 66), which guides consumer protection, ensures that Nigeria does not become a ready market for unscrupulous foreign countries and companies to dump products and services.