Consumer protection is highly fundamental to the economic growth of any nation. Individuals engage products and services that meet their needs and uphold value. In Nigeria, the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) is the agency vested with a statutory mandate to monitor and modify behaviour of service providers and manufacturers so as to protect the interest of consumers. This mandate is fulfilled through complaint resolution, surveillance and enforcement, consumer education, as well as research and strategy.
Consumers have rights, and the FCCPC has, over the years, facilitated the resolution of Customers’ complaints ranging from outrageous billing by electricity distribution companies, refund for bad and malfunctional products, among others. Some of such consumers have recorded their testimonials in appreciation of the FCCPC’s intervention. Some testimonials are replicated below:
“I filed a claim against Airtel Nigeria over illegal Airtime deductions. I couldn’t believe that I couldn’t ever be attended to or get my airtime back. Thanks to consumer protection agency. I got my airtime and even got an apology call from Airtel. Special thanks to the DG Babatunde Irukera. Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) is working, Nigeria is working.”
“I wish to appreciate FCCPC for promptly responding to my complaints which I lodged last week on the failure of MOJEC – Meter Asset Management Company – (a vendor for EKEDC) to fulfill its obligations to install pre-paid meter in my residence after paying the appropriate fees. Due to your prompt intervention, I hereby report that the meter was installed and commissioned today – November 18, 2020. It is crystal clear that but for your intervention, the meter would not have been installed in the very near future. Thank you for the great work you are doing to ensure that consumers are no more taken for granted after fulfilling their obligations by those whose duties are to render the services. Thank you very much.”
“I applied for a renewal of my driver’s license at the Otta zonal office of the FRSC and got the temporary one on 17th June 2017. Up till the moment I complained to FCCPC, I was always going to the Otta zonal office every quarter since June 2017 to extend validity of the temporary one and to ask for my permanent license, since they could not find it. I complained to FCCPC and thanks to the prompt action of FCCPC, I received my Driver’s license from the FRSC yesterday 2nd December 2020 and validity was extended till 2025. I am so grateful to the FCCPC team. Highly commendable work.”
The above testimonials lend credence to the fact that consumers have rights which can duly be enforced via the instrumentality of the FCCPC. This article outlines Consumer rights which are enshrined in the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act (FCCPA), 2018, as well as the filing of complaint by aggrieved consumers.
Consumer Rights Under the FCCPA
The FCCPA defines a consumer as any person:
- who purchases or offers to purchase goods other than for the purpose of resale, but does not include a person who purchases any goods for the purpose of using them in the production or manufacture of any other goods or articles for sale; or
- to who a service is rendered.
The rights of consumers as enshrined in the FCCPA include:
- Right to information in plain and understandable language: A consumer is entitled to notices, documents or visual representations that describe a product or service in plain language.
- Right to know the price of goods or services: Goods or services shall not be displayed for sale without an adequate display of the prices to the consumer. Furthermore, a consumer shall not be required to pay for goods or services at a price that is higher than the displayed price for those goods or services.
- Right to know product labelling and trade descriptions: A consumer is entitled to accurate description of goods and services and shall not be misled by a misrepresentation of the goods and services.
- Right to disclosure of reconditioned or second-hand goods: A consumer must be well informed where particular goods are second-hand or re-conditioned, re-built or re-made.
- Right to sales records: Except in a case of impracticability, a consumer shall be entitled to a written record of each transaction made by the consumer. This could be by way of an invoice or a receipt.
- Right to select suppliers: A consumer has the right to make a purchase from any supplier and shall not be put under compulsion to enter into an agreement or transaction with a seller or service provider.
- Right to cancel advance reservation, booking or order: A consumer has the right to cancel any advance reservation, booking or order for any goods or services. However, this right is subject to a reasonable charge for cancellation of the order or reservation by the supplier or service provider.
- Right to choose or examine goods: A consumer has the right to select or reject any particular item from goods displayed in or sold from open stock. However, where any loss or damage occurs to any goods displayed by a supplier, resulting from the gross negligence, recklessness, malicious behaviour or criminal conduct of the consumer, then such consumer will be liable.
- Right to return goods: A consumer has a right to return goods to the supplier and receive a full refund where such goods are unsuitable and do not correspond with the description, sample, type or quality expressed in the sales agreement.
- Right to fair dealings: A consumer shall not be forced, coerced, pressured, harassed to patronize a supplier. Also, a consumer shall not be subjected to unfair, unreasonable, unjust price or terms.
- Right to a notice for certain terms and condition: Where there are terms or conditions that constitute an assumption of risk, liability or indemnity, a consumer must be duly notified.
- Rights pertaining to the safety and quality of the goods and services:
A consumer has a right to the following:
- The timely performance and completion of services, and timely notice of any unavoidable delay in the performance of the services.
- Performance of the services in a manner and quality that reasonable persons are generally entitled to expect.
- The use, delivery or installation of goods that are free of defects and of a quality that persons are generally entitled to expect, if the goods are required for the performance of the services.
- The return of any property or control over any property of the consumer in at least as good a condition as it was when the consumer made it available to the undertaking for the purpose of performing the services, having regard to the circumstances of the supply, and any specific criteria or conditions agreed between the supplier and the consumer before or during the performance of the services.
Similarly, a consumer has the right to receive goods that are suitable for the purposes for which they are intended and are of good quality, in good working order and free of defects.
Complaint Handling Procedure
It is established that the FCCPC, among other functions, exists to handle complaints of consumers. In order to address this, the FCCPC , by its mandate, receives and looks into consumer complaints in a bid to ensure speedy redress for complainants. Any aggrieved consumer can file a complaint with the FCCPC after initially reporting to the provider of the product or service. This may either be in hard copy and delivered to any of the FCCPC’s offices or soft copy through the website portal or email.
The complaint must clearly state the following:
- The party complained against, with the correct address
- The amount involved
- The expected redress
The complainant is also required to attach proof of the transaction and any other documents to support the claim, so as to help the FCCPC with the process of redress in the event of a valid complaint being established.
In order to achieve seamless supplier-consumer relationship, it is pertinent for producers, manufacturers and suppliers to study and internalize the rights of consumers provided for under the FCCPA. Similarly, the actualization of consumer protection demands efforts on the consumer. The consumer has the responsibility to conduct proper research about products and services and also keep manufacturers and service providers informed about their needs and expectation through feedbacks. Where there is a level of communication between suppliers and consumers, it would facilitate proper professional relationship where quality service can thrive with consumer satisfaction as an end.
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