Lagos - The Director-General of Consumer Protection Council, Dupe Atoki, on Monday decried the high rate of consumer rights abuses in the telecommunications, aviation, banking and power sectors of the economy.
Atoki said this at a public lecture on “The State of Consumer Rights Protection in Nigeria” organised by the Human Right Centre, Faculty of Law at the University of Lagos (UNILAG).
She said that the prevalence of consumer abuses in different sectors of the nation’s economy had resulted in a situation where consumers were not getting value for their money.
She also said that the council had adopted the strategy of criminal prosecution of recalcitrant businesses or litigation to achieve satisfactory redress.
This, she added, had helped in achieving full compliance by businesses.
Atoki said, “In Nigeria, market failures manifest in different ways with varying degrees of negative impact on consumers while the free market is currently operational in Nigeria in all forms.
“For instance, in the telecommunications sector, consumers still contend with drop calls, unsolicited texts and calls, poor network and credit wipe-off.
“Also, in the aviation sector, regular delays and cancellation of flights without notice, damage and loss of baggage without compensation, still occur.”
She added that the banking industry was still a culprit to consumer abuses as regards services rendered.
“In the banking sector, there are regular cases of Automated Teller Machine (ATM) dispense error cases with prolonged resolution period, Point of Sales (POS) terminal issues and unexplained debit on customer accounts among others.
“Similarly, in the power sector, outrageous estimated billing, non-provision of transformers and meters, wrongful disconnections as well as inadequate or erratic electricity supply contribute to consumers’ frustrations.”
Atoki noted that consumers of Satellite Television Services were also grappling with regular disruptions, wrongful disconnection, poor service delivery and lack of redress for complaints.
She added, “In the area of land transportation, overloading, non-refund of money when vehicles breakdown and use of dilapidated vehicles add to the burden of consumers of public transport services.
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“In the property and real estate sector, developers still fail to keep to agreement terms, tie down consumers’ deposits for prolonged period and sometimes deliver substandard houses to consumers.
“ In the hospitality industry, many hotels fail to live up to their claims/required standard, while vendors of holiday packages do not deliver on promises made.
“Also, in the food and beverage industry, cases of foreign substances in drinks, sale of expired products, adulteration and improper storage are rampant.
However, the CPC DG said that the agency had begun the implementation of far-reaching strategic initiatives and sectoral interventions in order to enhance the protection of consumers’ rights across the country.
According to her, sectoral intervention has been identified as a major strategy for evaluation of business operations under the various sectors in order to arrest identified adverse trends and thereby resolve individual complaints.
She said, that so far, CPC had carried out major interventions in the food and beverage as well as the aviation sectors.
The director-general added that both involved full-scale investigations into the operations of businesses and the issuance of orders of council for appropriate remedies from different infractions.
Atoki, therefore, called for increased collaboration among regulatory agencies across the country to ensure adequate protection of consumer rights.
“Market failures violate consumers’ rights and inhibit their welfare in the marketplace.
“Impunity of businesses, rivalry among regulatory bodies due to overlapping functions and protection of self-interest by trade associations are part of the challenges inhibiting the effective protection of Nigerian consumers.
“Genuine businesses must comply with regulations and specified standards for goods and services in the country.
“Efforts must be made by regulatory agencies to collaborate with one another in order foster seamless relationships in the regulation of businesses to ensure effective protection of consumers,” she said.