Understanding Competition and Consumer rights during the Covid 19 pandemic.  
Economy, Opinion

In one of the annual events, being the fourth annual Competition and Consumer Protection workshops, in alliance with competition Law held by MUSA DUDHIA & Co. on Friday, 27th November the matter being addressed at the workshop was how to understand Competition and Consumer Rights in the course of this Covid-19 pandemic.

At the event, one of the guest speakers the director of the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) highlighted a few things that the commission has done during the pandemic. The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission is a statutory body established with a unique dual mandate to protect the competition process in the Zambian Economy and also to protect consumers.

The CCPC was established in 1997 under the name Zambia Competition Commission (ZCC). The name was then changed in 2010 to Competition and Consumer Protection commission following the enactment of the new Act called the Competition and Consumer Protection Act (CCPA) No. 24 of 2010 and repeal of the old Act.

Today, the director spoke on the work they’ve been doing, during the pandemic. They’ve been reviewing merges and matters to deal with abuse of dominance and restrictive business practices. As well as the review of unfair trading practices between Business to Business and Business to Consumers.

Covid-19 has been a health as well as economic pandemic. As the economic welfare of consumers was affected as markets were disputed, businesses have had limited or no access to raw materials and finished goods due to the closure of borders. Consumers did not and still do not always have access to essential goods and services such as medication, sanitizer, and face masks. The CCPC has urged the companies in the market to increase industry collaboration which is stemming from the need to ensure a coordinated response to the pandemic For example, sector response groups have been formed to spearhead industry response.  Vertical and horizontal agreements among dominant players who choose to supply raw materials to smaller players as a way of preventive closure of businesses among smaller players as well as a way to continue the livelihood of these people.

The measures that the CCPC has taken during this crisis are investigations, draw raids and inspections on on-going cartels. Abuse of dominance as well as restrictive businesses practices and merger cases, merger notifications were mostly submerged via email, except where physical documents were required. They continue to discourage cartels, abuse of dominance, and restrictive business practices and un-notified mergers.

The effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on the economy is unfair trading such as increased prices of essential products (price gouging) on goods such as hand sanitizer, medicines as well as face masks. Increased cancellation on trips, get-aways as well as vacations due to restrictions especially on travel which usually results in luck of refunds. There first measure as a commission was to empower consumers with information. Advertise financial scams and make the consumers aware of fraudulent behavior especially with online businesses, the rise of the digital economy although good, has come with an increase in misleading and deceptive online marketing techniques to exploit consumers.

In conclusion, the commission increased cooperation with other national consumer protection agencies, in order to Protect Consumers through the exchange of information. Increased sensitizations on consumer rights and what to avoid as a consumer and to always read the Terms and conditions of their purchase. As well as investigations, draw raids, and inspections on-going cartels.

 

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