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Whip out for devious traders

Mohloai Mpesi

A flog is on the ledge to mull the inconsiderate traders after the National Assembly endorsed a Consumer Protection Act 2021 intended to shield customers against deceitful suppliers and retailers.

According to the Act passed last week, a person, trader, supplier, provider, retailer, manufacture, wholesaler or distributor who refuses without reasonable grounds to prove after-sale services to consumers and those that make false or misleading offers shall face a fine to a tune of M30 000 or imprisonment.

The law also applies to traders who make promotions or advertising which does not conform to rules of decency, sincerity and truth and or alters any information on goods, services relating to quality, weight, volume, content, composition, potency, purity or expiry date to the detriment of consumers and customers.

In an interview with Director of Legal Services at the Ministry of Trade and Industry, ‘Malikonelo Lebone, she said that the ministry was propelled to design the Act after receiving numerous complaints from consumers in regard to poor goods and services from suppliers.

In order to exercise the Act she said they have investigators in office, adjudicators and mediators who will intervene between the trader and complainant, leading to the formation of the consumer Bill.

She said this applies to everyone from the consumer who buys goods for personal use to the end user. However, the provisions relating to the contract between the two parties are placed in the bill, which inherently arbitrates any foul play to the consumer, which he said would not be enforceable since they are inherently unfair to the constitutions.

“Some of the complaints are the mechanically faulty second hand imported vehicles, cellphones; where the consumer is promised a certain model or expectations of a specification in phones, issues relating to aluminum manufacturers and second laptops.

Meanwhile, commenting on the legislation on behalf of the Private Sector Foundation Chief Executive Officer Thabo Qhesi, said the initiative is of great importance to save the Lesotho business and produce quality goods.

“We support the Bill because due to many uprising sicknesses and diseases emanating from poor food quality, it has been proven statistically by World Health Organisation (WHO) that it is caused by poor food quality.

“This will help the businessmen and women to evaluate their goods and services before selling to consumers and at the end of the day we shall have a healthy business environment where we eat healthy food. Lesotho should not become a dumping site where everyone wants to test their own product and leave,” Qhesi said.     

According to the Act, anything that is prohibited, “…or that which causes any consumer to suffer pecuniary loss or damage or any physical harm; disregards an order made under this Act commits an offence and is liable on conviction, to a fine not exceeding M30 000 or an imprisonment term of not less than six months.

“The Act coordinates consumer activities and nominates relevant stakeholders to represent consumers in the decision-making processes affecting consumers.

The Act further states that the department will also formulate and submit to the ministry, policy legislative proposals in the interest of consumers receive and investigate any complaint and other consumer issues regarding consumer protection and, where appropriate refer the complaint to the competent officials to be appointed as conciliators, mediators or arbitrators within the department.

“Where an Act, practice or conduct complained of in a notice under subsection (3) is likely to cause substantial prejudice or harm to a particular class of consumers in general, the supplier may be directed to cease such act or conduct and such order shall become effective as from the time is so served.

“In the cases where the safety of consumers is a subject of the notice given under this section, and the Director needs expert opinion on the matter before announcing his decision on the matter, the Director shall direct the supplier to cease such act or conduct and such order shall become effective as from the time it is so served.

“A supplier who contravenes or fails to comply with a cease and desist order issued in terms of this section commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine not less than M10 000 or to an imprisonment term of a period not less than six months,” the Act reads.

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