CCZ marks World Consumer Rights Day and delivers Petition to Parliament on Consumer Protection Bill

2nd April 2013

On the 26 and the 27th of March 2013, the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) belatedly joined the global consumer movement in celebrating the World Consumer Rights Day and used the opportunity to drum up support for consumer justice by calling for the speedy enactment of a Consumer Protection Act.

To mark the day, the CCZ held a symposium at a local hotel which was graced by stakeholders from different consuming facing sectors of the economy.

Official celebrations ended with a march from Town House to Africa Unity Square where the CCZ interrelated with consumers: conducting consumer education, answering questions, and giving prizes to lucky consumers.

Addressing stakeholders, CCZ executive director Rosemary Siyachitema said consumer concerns had been relegated to the backside, adding that consumer justice in the country was being negated by a fragile and fragmented consumer protection framework.

She implored government to accelerate the passing into law of the current Consumer Protection Draft Bill , to replace the outdated, existing consumer protection legislations, as they were failing consumers.

If there was anything that was clear from the stakeholders, it was the fact that a new consumer protection was seriously overdue.

Deputy Director for consumer affairs in the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, Mr Takawira Murombedzi said government efforts to institute an Act of Parliament which will protect consumers from market injustices, were at an advanced stage.

He said it would likely be sometime before the Bill became law, noting that delays in the enactment of the law were not resident with his ministry but with the Attorney General's Office.

Bankers Association president George Guvamatanga, who represented the financial sector rallied banks to provide safe banking, and simple financial education, programmes to enhance consumer justice.

He said the banking industry was working on a cocktail of initiatives to protect consumers among them the creation of a Credit Reference Bureau and an office of the Ombudsman.

Other measures include reviewing the Code of Conduct for the industry as the one made last year was irregularly signed between banks.

To encourage openness and transparency in the industry, Guvamatanga said statistics on complaints against banks should be made public.

Globally, the financial sector is a problem industry for consumer protection, as consumers are often perplexed by the sophisticated financial products.

Within the consumer movement, consumer education and the availability of effective redress mechanisms are two of the foremost methods employed to strengthen consumer protection.

That is why both the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority and the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority, who are also mandated with consumer protection agreed to put in place and increase consumer education and awareness programmes and to work with the CCZ in spearheading consumer education.

Standard Association of Zimbabwe director general Eve Gadzikwa said her organisation is advocating for the establishment of the National Standards Regulatory Authority.

When functional, the authority is expected to enhance consumer protection in standards of goods and services, particularly shoddily made goods which have become an eternal consumer problem in the country.

The major highlight of the celebrations was the handover of a petition to Parliament demanding that the urgent passing into law of the Consumer Protection Bill.

The World Consumer Rights Day is commemorated every 15 March globally to promote basic rights of consumers, to demand that the rights be protected, and to protest market abuses and other consumer injustices.

This year's celebrations were held under the theme Consumer Justice Now!