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Golden Sibanda-Senior Business Reporter

THE era of flagrant disregard of consumer rights and unfair business practices may have come to an end after Industry and Commerce Minister Sekai Nzenza, with concurrence of President Mnangagwa, last week appointed the seven members of the Consumer Protection Commission.

Although this comes after the signing into law of the Consumer Protection Act in 2019, the latest the appointments were done in line with requirements of the Public Entities and Corporate Governance Act, which governs State bodies. After appointing its commissioners, with effect from March 11, 2021, Dr Nzenza will also appoint the chairperson of the Consumer Commission and his or her deputy.

“The commission shall operate as an implementation mechanism of the Consumer Protection Act, in line with the Ministry of Industry and Commerce,” Dr Nzenza said.

She said the commission was also mandated to protect consumers, regulate the accreditation of consumer advocacy groups, construct alternative dispute resolution and conduct consumer awareness in collaboration with all key stakeholders. Inaugural members of Zimbabwe’s National Consumer Commission are Dr Mthokozisi Nkosi, Mrs Rosemary Mpofu, Mrs Respina Zinyanduko, Mr Rainess M Chadoka, Mrs Ethel Hlabangana, Dr Davison Gomo and Mrs Nomazulu Donga. Among the entity’s key mandate will be  to protect consumers from unfair business conduct, ensuring fair resolution of disputes between consumers and traders of goods or services and promoting awareness of consumer rights.

The Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) had for long been pushing for the setting up of the Consumer Commission, while the effectiveness of its advocacy was limited by absence of legislation specifically designed to protect consumers.

Already, the Consumer Council has successfully lobbied for other legislation that include Consumer Contract Act, Class Action Act, Patients Charter and National Pricing and Incomes Commission.

Some of the complaints or disputes CCZ has handled between consumers and sellers include substandard electrical gadgets, mobile phone handsets, adulterates beverages, unfulfilled contracts or agreements of substandard food stuffs. Broadly, the functions of the Commission entail to protect consumers from unconscionable, unreasonable, unjust or otherwise improper trade practices; as well as deceptive, misleading, unfair or fraudulent conduct.

It will also conduct conciliation and arbitration between parties, promote fair business practices, coordinate and network consumer activities and liaise with organisations and competent authorities and agencies locally and outside Zimbabwe to protect consumer interests. Further, the Consumer Commission will promote consumer confidence, awareness, empowerment, and the development of a culture of consumer responsibility, through individual and group education, vigilance, advocacy and activism.

The Commission will maintain a record of and publish annual reports on consumer complaints and outcomes of any hearings, encourage and assist Governmental and official organisational support to further the interests of consumers. Additionally, it will work in support of consumer organisations and refer to the competition commission or any other relevant authority any concerns regarding market share, anti-competitive behaviour or conduct that may be prohibited in terms of the Competition Act. – The Herald

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