Competition laws beckon for Lesotho

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Bereng Mpaki

LESOTHO is crafting a law to enable the formation of a competition commission to deal with unfair market place practices.

This was said by the Minister of Trade and Industry, Tefo Mapesela, this week.

Mr Mapesela said the project is being driven by his ministry and is also expected to establish a competition commission or tribunal to act as custodian of competition matters. He said the programme is currently at Bill stage.

He said unfair business practices have killed many businesses and perpetuated monopolies in many sectors. However, he said, this has also negatively affected the consumer services as there is a continued lack of freedom of choice.

“There are many cases of unfair competitive practices daily in the market place which we want to curb through this law,” Mr Mapesela said.

He said it was unfair for some firms to operate at multiple levels like manufacturing and also venturing into retail of their product.

“Right now, I am dealing with a complaint from aluminum retailers who are complaining about their supplier’s establishment of a retail business which is direct competition with his clients despite supplying them.

“They argued that since the supplier’s retail business was charging lower prices than theirs, has become direct competition with the retailers and would soon force them out of business.”

He said the Bill has already been tabled to Parliament having incorporated input from stakeholders after consultations last year.

“I presented the Bill to Parliament last year but I cannot tell when it will become a law. That is the job of the Parliament.”

In a separate interview this week, the Private Sector Foundation of Lesotho (PSFL) said the absence of competition regulation in the country was leading to possible collusion and price fixing.

“If you look closely at our financial sector and the telecommunication sectors, there are possible acts of collusion by the players in those sectors. However, due to lack of competition laws, nothing has been done about them,” Thabo Qhesi, the chief executive of PSFL said.

He said it was in the best interest of the country to expedite enactment of competition laws.

Mr Mapesela said the ministry is also working on the Consumer Protection Bill, to protect the rights of consumers against unfair practices from business operators.

The minister said consumers have a right to be treated fairly wherever they are buying goods and services. He said consumers were mostly cheated by unscrupulous business operators who fail to disclose full details about the product or the service they are acquiring.

“Consumers have a right to return goods that are not satisfactory and have to get a refund if they so wish. You cannot buy something under a certain impression only for it to turn out differently. The seller has to inform you beforehand.

“We are all consumers of some sort, so this law is meant to protect everyone,” Mr Mapesela said.

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