Consumers cushioned

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mphakaBy Letuka Chafotsa

Maseru — The Ministry of Trade and Industry, Cooperatives and Marketing said the recently approved consumer protection policy (CPP) will cushion consumers against collusive pricing.

The ministry’s Principal Secretary Moahloli Mphaka said the policy will protect consumers from unfair trade practices which adversely affect health, safety and consumers’ economic interests.

“CPP sets clear rules on labelling, price marking and code of protection on adver-tising, among others,” Mphaka said.

He said the policy will harmonise all existing pieces of legal provisions that seek to protect the consumer and ensure fair market practices.

Mphaka asserted that the policy will have an overall responsibility of addressing issues related to consumer rights abuse.

“We have recognised that consumers often face imbalances in economic terms, educational levels and bargaining power.

“Bearing in mind that consumers have a right to access non-hazardous products, as well as the right to promote equitable and sustainable economic, social development and environmental protection, hence the development of the policy,” he said.

CPP approaches, among other things, the market from choices provided by the com-petition by bridging the gap of “information asymmetry between consumers and sellers”.

“While enhancing consumer welfare by protecting economic interests it will also foster competition within the business climate,” said Mphaka.

“At the root of both consumer protection and competition policy is the recognition of an equal relationship between consumers and producers,” he added.

“Protection of consumers is accomplished by setting minimum quality specifications and safety standards for both goods and services and establishing mechanisms to redress their grievances,” Mphaka said.

He said the objective of competition is met by ensuring there are enough of producers so that no producer can attain a position of monopoly.

The policy will facilitate production and distribution patterns responsive to the needs and desires of consumers and will encourage high levels of ethical conduct for those engaged in production and distribution of goods and services to customers.

Mphaka also said the policy will help in establishing the country’s national stand-ards and regulations for product safety and quality which should from time-to-time be reviewed to ensure convergence to generally accepted international standards.

He further said they will engage the legislature to fully understand the consumer welfare, hence the policy for better development of regulations.

“The current economic, social, environmental and political challenges call for a policy shift to focus towards the consumer perspective,” he added.

CPP will help boost consumer confidence on products as well as “tackling the fragmentation of internal market”.

“A strong consumer dimension is needed to improve the functioning of retail markets and enable consumers to make better choices,” Mphaka concluded.

Nthakoana Ngatane of Blue Ribbon said they were happy with the policy so much that they have started their “best before” campaign to ensure that customers get fresh bread wherever they buy it.

“We deliver fresh bread every day, and our policy has always been to ensure that stale bread is not kept on shelves, but this new development gives our customers the power to help us ensure that this policy is adhered to,” said Ngatane.

She said best before date refers to the quality and shelf life of an unopened food product.

“It tells one how long a product will retain its optimum flavour, texture and nutritional value when stored under normal conditions,” Ngatane added.

The policy was developed by the government through the trade ministry.

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