The Sunday Mail
THE Christmas shopping season has begun in earnest, amid growing concerns over the sprouting of falsely branded consumer goods.
The goods, which are often of an inferior quality to the real brands, are sold under established brand names without brand owners’ authority.
Investigations carried by The Sunday Mail Society revealed an increase in the number of falsely branded products that are being sold to unsuspecting consumers.
The proliferation of these goods has largely been attributed to recent price increases and the unavailability of certain items in shops.
Among the goods are electrical appliances, motor vehicle parts and foodstuffs.
There has been a suggestion that the proliferation of falsely branded electrical goods is behind the increase in electrical fires.
As for motor vehicle parts, many consumers prefer second-hand originals as they fear buying inferior imitations.
The telecommunications sector has not been spared either, with counterfeit branded mobile phones finding their way onto the market.
The same goes for seed maize, and beverages, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic.
Cooking gas cylinders, building materials, body and hair creams, keys and locks, and confectioneries have not been spared.
The poultry industry has been the latest casualty, with day-old broiler chicks that remain stunted despite regular feeding confounding citizens.
The agro-chemical industries is one of the hardest hit, with falsely branded herbicides on sale.
Another major sector that has been affected is that of medicines, with anti-biotics, anti-retrovirals, skin lighteners and sex-enhancers being targeted by those who falsely brand products.
Technological advances are making it possible for unscrupulous traders to imitate certification marks.
Consumption of counterfeit branded products compromises the health of consumers. Although the Standards Association of Zimbabwe (SAZ) has come up with stamps that are meant to separate genuine products from fakes, several factors ensure illicit trade continues.
Although the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe is aware of the presence of fake products on the market, its executive director, Ms Roselyne Siyachitema, says her organisation is yet to carry investigations that will determine the extent of the problem.
“This problem is not new. We are, however, yet to carry out the research and investigations that will unravel the extent of this problem,” Ms Siyachitema said.
Commenting on the same subject last year, Ms Siyachitema highlighted that her organisation’s hands are tied as the organisation can only assume an advisory role since it not does not have a policing arm.
“We know that there are fake products out there. The CCZ does not, however, have a policing arm. What we simply do is alert the relevant agencies and they are the ones that will take action. As for the consumers, we can only tell them to stop using the fake products,” Ms Siyachitema said.
Ms Siyachitema, however, blamed consumers for buying products that they know are not genuine.
“Consumers have their rights and responsibilities. If indeed they are consuming fake products, then they are also equally to blame. I advise consumers not to buy banned products since they will be exposing their health to great risk,” Ms Siyachitema said.
The CCZ has been in the forefront in the crafting of the proposed Consumer Protection Act.
The Consumer Protection Bill is yet to be passed into law.
If passed into law, the act, which seeks to deal with consumer complaints and cases, will go a long way in safeguarding the interests of the consumers.
Consumer watchdogs have been lobbying Government to come up with an efficient regulatory framework which will protect consumers.
The Standards Association of Zimbabwe is battling to monitor goods that get into the country to ensure that they are in line with consumer expectations and also according to set standards.
Some of the challenges that the enforcing agencies are facing are related to a lack of funding.