CPC reads riot act to telcos, banks, others over consumer rights breaches

By Kokumo Goodie, Lagos, Nigeria

Nigeria’s Director-General, Consumer Protection Council (CPC), Mrs. Dupe Atoki, has warned telcos, banks, Pay TV service providers and others in the country that end is near for the flagrant abuse of customers’ rights.

The DG warned that it would henceforth resort to filing criminal charges against these organisations as a way of whipping them to order, lamenting that the lack of strict punishment for erring organisations has led to a situation where consumers no longer get value for their money in the country.

Atoki who spoke as a guest  on The State of Consumer Rights Protection in Nigeria, at a forum organised by the Centre For Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Lagos, lamented that market failures manifests in many ways.

 “In Nigeria, market failures manifest in different ways with varying degrees of negative impact on consumers. While the free market is currently operational in Nigeria, all forms of consumer abuse still pervade virtually every sector of the economy, denying consumers their rights. For instance, in the telecommunications sector, consumers still contend with drop calls, unsolicited texts/calls, poor network and credit wipe-off, while in the aviation sector, regular delays/cancellation of flights without notice, damage/loss of baggage without compensation, still occur.

“In the banking sectorthere are regular cases of Automated Teller Machine (ATM) dispense error cases with prolonged resolution period; Point of Sales (PoS) terminal issues; and unexplained debit on customer accounts among others,” Mrs Atoki said.

According to her, Satellite Television Services subscribers are not spared the pains of service disruption, wrongful disconnection, poor service delivery and lack of redress for subscribers’ complaints.

Sector analysts say the situation is worse during the wet season as rains so often disrupt service signal. Since services are post-paid, subscribers are so often left in the lurch to lick their wounds.

The DG said the agency had started the implementation of far-reaching strategic initiatives and sectoral interventions in order to enhance the protection of consumers’ rights across the country.

She said sectoral intervention has been identified as a major strategy for the evaluation of business operations under the various sectors in order to arrest identified adverse trends and thereby resolve individual complaints in the long run.

“In view of the low awareness of consumer rights in the country, the CPC is undertaking different measures to ensure increased knowledge of consumer rights and responsibilities and improve the visibility of the Council. In order to enforce consumer rights and ensure compliance with the Council’s enabling law, the Council has adopted the strategy of criminal prosecution of recalcitrant businesses or litigation to achieve satisfactory redress. This has helped in achieving full compliance by businesses,” she said. 

She canvassed increased collaboration among regulatory agencies across the country to ensure adequate protection of consumer rights.

“Market failures violate consumers’ rights and inhibit their welfare in the marketplace. Impunity of businesses, rivalry among regulatory bodies due to seeming overlapping functions and protection of self-interest by trade associations are part of the challenges inhibiting the effective protection of Nigerian consumers.

“Genuine businesses must comply with regulations and specified standards for goods and services in the country. Efforts must be made by regulatory agencies to collaborate with one another in order foster seamless relationships in the regulation of businesses to ensure effective protection of consumers,” the DG argued.

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