Screws tightened on errant businesses

05 Apr, 2024 - 00:04 0 Views
Screws tightened on errant businesses A check by The Manica Post revealed that large supermarket chains (names withheld) have an incomprehensible pricing structure whereby some prices on display on certain products are different from the ones clients are charged at the till points, especially when buying using the local currency

The ManicaPost

Ray Bande
Senior Reporter

ABOUT 98 business entities have been prosecuted, while 54 were slapped with compliance notices in Manicaland in the first quarter of 2024 as Government tightens screws on unethical trade conduct.

A check by The Manica Post revealed that large supermarket chains (names withheld) have an incomprehensible pricing structure whereby some prices on display on certain products are different from the ones clients are charged at the till points, especially when buying using the local currency.

For example, some products are marked in the local Zimbabwean dollar currency on the shelves, but when the customer gets to the till and uses the greenback they get a nominal discount meant to incentivise them to continue purchasing using foreign currency.

However, the story is different when a client opts to buy that same product using the ZWL.

 

The client is charged almost double the price.

 

The price is indexed on the parallel market equivalence of the United States dollar.

 

This is despite the fact that these supermarkets display the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe daily market exchange rate, plus 10 percent on their notice boards.

This means the display of the daily bank rate is meant to hoodwink unsuspecting clients who do not bother to check the discrepancies.

This trend is understood to be a move by supermarket chains to compete favourably with tuckshops.

 

It is also deliberately calculated to dissuade customers from using the local currency.

In response to that, Government has moved in to restore sanity in public business transactions, with companies involved in such unethical practices either being prosecuted or issued with compliance notices.

The companies are being penalised for a multiplicity of malpractices that include, but not limited to failure to display prices, displaying disclaimer clauses, selling expired products, selling certain products exclusively in USD and charging a different price at the till points.

Statistics released for the first quarter of 2024 indicate a sharp increase in the number of businesses that have either been prosecuted or issued with compliance notices when compared to the same period last year.

In 2023, a total of 62 businesses were prosecuted, while 37 were issued with compliance licences in Manicaland Province.

The figures for the whole of 2023 have already been surpassed just three months into 2024.

Chairman of the Consumer Protection Commission (CPC), Dr Mthokozisi Nkosi, confirmed the statistics, and said they are geared to instil discipline and fair trade practices in the business sector.

“In the year 2023, a total of 62 businesses were prosecuted, while 37 were issued with compliance notices. For 2024, about 98 businesses were prosecuted, while 54 were issued with compliance notices.

“This gives us a total number of prosecutions of 170 and the total number of those issued with compliance notices of 93 in the three months covered in 2024,” said Dr Nkosi.

The CPC chairman said the increase in the number of businesses that have either been prosecuted or issued with compliance notices is attributed to more resources that have been availed to the consumer protection watchdog.

“The increase in the numbers is a direct result of deployment of more resources towards consumer protection, and we hope to maintain the momentum since it is our core mandate. Consumers must be protected at all times and as more resources are made available, we will continue with the onslaught” he said.

At national scale, 3 149 inspections and compliance checks were done in 2023.

In addition to that, 50 reports were received and 672 cases were detected and investigated, out of which 80 percent of the investigated cases were finalised within the 14 days prescribed in the Act,” said Dr Nkosi.

Over 2 000 businesses were prosecuted.

The commission has declared its intention to invest in technology and data analytics this year to improve its monitoring skills, spot trends and patterns that can guide its regulatory actions.

In 2021, Government appointed a seven-member commission with a clear mandate to protect consumers and regulate the accreditation of consumer protection advocacy groups among its key functions.

This follows the gazetting of the Consumer Protection Act of 2019.

Dr Nkosi chairs the commission whose other members include Mrs Rosemary Mpofu, Mrs Nomazulu Donga, Dr Davison Gomo, Ms Ethel Hlabangana, Mr Rainess Chadoka and Ms Respina Zinyanduko.

Under the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act, unscrupulous businesspeople that engage in unfair practices such as multi-tier pricing, fraudulent offers, failure to label products properly and the disclosure of consumers’ personal information to third parties will be liable for prosecution.

Consumers are entitled to be fully refunded for defective or sub-standard goods.

They can also individually approach the courts for redress or refer such complaints directly to the commission.

Such legal requirements for producers and retailers, coupled with the tight enforcement of consumer rights, are applying significant pressure on business to provide quality goods and services.

 

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