Government has been urged to give a clear timeline towards the passage of the Consumer Protection Bill, which will protect Ghanaians from inferior goods, products and services.
Mr Kofi Kapito, the Chief Executive Officer of the Consumer Protection Agency (CPA), who made the call at a press conference in Accra on Thursday, challenged the present administration to ensure the swift passage of the Bill, in honour of the New Patriotic Party’s manifesto and campaign promise to Ghanaians.
He said “regrettably, with more than 15 months in power, the current administration has not moved any step further from where the document was”, but the Draft Consumer Protection Bill had been left at the Attorney General’s Department to gather dust.
Addressing a press conference organised by the Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS Ghana), as part of activities to mark the 2018 World Consumer Rights Day today, Mr Kapito said “it is discouragingly disheartening the ‘trotro’ pace at which government is handling the process”.
He said the seemingly lack of interest in the Bill by government could be seen to have stalled the process.
He said the annual event under the theme: “Making Digital Marketplaces Fairer”, was to promote and protect the basic rights of all consumers, for instance in areas such as ensuring the safety of their information, and in the financial sector address high interest rates, unfair contract terms on loans and mortgages, ATM Fees, hidden charges, security issues, privacy concerns, as well as high taxation and vast inequalities that existed.
Mr Kapito said over the past 10 years, there had been attempts by governments through the Ministry of Trade and Industry, to the Draft Consumer Protection Bill to Cabinet, adding that, “four Presidents have come and gone yet the progress had painstakingly been slow”.
He explained that the issues affecting consumers were overwhelming, and the need for the government to fast-track the passage of the National Consumer Protection Bill was crucial, as the absence of such a legislation made it was difficult to do any meaningful advocacy and protection in a country, which had literary become a junkyard for inferior goods from Asia.
Mr Kapito noted that “as you make your way to shops across the country, one notice that you will come across is: Goods Sold here are Not Returnable”, which showed that for a manufacturer or merchant to put up such a notice meant that the goods were inferior and not fit for its purpose.
He advised customers to boycott such facilities and their products in order to mount pressure on these manufacturers and merchants to adhere to internationally acceptable standards.
He said the CPA, acting on behalf of consumers and its partners, CUTS Ghana, had launched a web-based advocacy project known as the Operation 20,000 Signatories: Change.Org, where it intended to raise that number of signatures to petition the government to act now.
He urged the Ministry of Trade and Industry to review the document and send it to the Attorney General’s Department for the finalisation of the draft to be sent to Cabinet for approval for Parliament to pass it into law.
Mr Kapito further pleaded with the Ministry of Finance to provide every financial consideration required in order to ensure a smooth process for the passage of the Bill.
“If we do not see any measurable progress after some time, Ghanaian consumers would have nothing to do than to picket at the Attorney General’s Department and the Ministry of Trade and Industry”, he added.
Mr Appiah Kusi Adomako, the Country Coordinator of CUTS Ghana, called for a strengthened media advocacy and public education, to engage the attention of policy makers to prioritise the passage of a comprehensive National Consumer Protection Bill, to replace the current fragmented ones.
Mr James Lartey, the Head of Communication at the Food and Drugs Authority warned Ghanaians not to patronise products whose labels were inscribed in other foreign languages without any English translations, or which were near to their expiry dates.