Consumer council now a whimpering toothless bulldog

26 May, 2024 - 00:05 0 Views
Consumer council now a whimpering toothless bulldog

The Sunday Mail

Your Money, Your Call

Cresencia Marjorie Chiremba

LAST week, I broached the worrying subject of the proliferation of counterfeit goods in the market.

There was an overwhelming response, with most readers claiming to have been victims of this elaborate and intricate web of deception by unscrupulous traders.

As it turns out, lower-than-usual prices are being used to bait consumers.

For instance, a 450ml bottle of a popular body cream is being sold for US$2,50 (or equivalent) at tuckshops, but in big retail shops the same product is priced at US$4.

What often differentiates the prices is the simple fact that some products are fake and others genuine. It is unfortunate that consumers unwittingly purchase the cheaper fake items all in the name of saving.

However, what is disturbing is the fact that the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ), which is meant to be the customer advocate, has, by and large, remained silent on this critical issue. Their deafening silence raises questions with regard to the group’s effectiveness and ability to execute its mandate.

CCZ traces its roots back to a noble cause: protecting and empowering consumers.

With the enactment of the Consumer Protection Act (Chapter 14:44), the organisation was poised to champion consumer rights and create a fair marketplace. However, this will not be possible if the organisation seemingly remains mum on critical issues like counterfeits and underweight products.

As it stands, the CCZ’s voice is a mere whisper.

Nonetheless, retailers — big and small — are largely to blame for the proliferation of substandard products on the market.

Most of them are knowingly stocking these fake products, blatantly disregarding the risk they are exposing their clients to.

Profit, it seems, is all they care about.

The effect of fake products is dire.

Some people have been hospitalised, while others have lost their lives due to the consumption of hazardous foodstuff or ineffective medication, as well as use of malfunctioning gadgets.

It is against this background that most people get worried when organisations like CCZ and other relevant authorities do not take an active role to educate the public on the need to be vigilant when shopping.

As a watchdog, the CCZ should be at the forefront of combating counterfeit products through working with law-enforcement agents.

The organisation’s mandate includes influencing legislation, handling complaints and educating the public. Well, they might say lack of resources hinders their operations, but they must at least be doing something.

Consumers, some of whom cannot even distinguish between a genuine and a fake product, certainly need protection.

Media campaigns and outreach programmes can help consumers on what to look out for.

Blockchain, QR codes and other traceability solutions can assist in verifying products’ authenticity. Consumers need an active advocate, one that fearlessly exposes counterfeiters, educates the public and demands accountability.

The CCZ must break its silence!

It should investigate rigorously, probing counterfeit networks and exposing them.

Similarly, they should lobby for stricter penalties against counterfeiters and those selling them. Counterfeit products endanger lives, so health and safety must be a priority.

The lack of quality control allows unscrupulous manufacturers to thrive.

 

Consumers deserve a pleasant shopping experience and peace of mind. Shopping should never be like an investigation, where one has to pay attention to detail so as to get something right. I challenge the CCZ to rise and protect us from these unscrupulous traders. It is better to pay more for a genuine product than less for a fake.

Remember, informed consumers are the first line of defence.

Choose wisely and let us reclaim our right to genuine, rightly weighed and packaged products.

Cresencia Marjorie Chiremba is a marketing consultant with a strong passion for customer experience. For comments, suggestions and trainings, she can be reached at: [email protected] or +263712979461, 0719978335, 0772978335.

 

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