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New twist to Coke, bottler's legal probe

10 December 2014, 09:02Okoro Chinedu

Lagos - Rights groups have criticized the handling of the ongoing case involving the Consumer Protection Council (CPC), Coca-Cola Nigeria Limited and Nigerian Bottling Company Limited.

The consumer rights body is entangled in a legal tussle with the two companies over the complaint of two half-filled cans of Sprite a consumer has brought to light.

The consumer rights body took most of the criticism from the concerned rights group.

In a statement jointly signed by Nelson Ekujumi, Director, Centre for Rights and Grassroots Initiative, and Fadeyi Olalekan, Programme Director at Centre for Governance and Qualitative Studies, the groups stated, “As concerned Nigerians, we can only be pleased to have a revived CPC that defends rather defenseless Nigerian consumers against large corporate bodies and manufacturers that often take advantage of the lax regulatory and enforcement environment in Nigeria to the detriment of poor consumers.”

According to the groups, it must be stated that the CPC in this case “seems to be acting beyond the laws establishing it and acting out an ambiguous script in the guise of defending consumers.”

“How else is it to be seen that the Consumer Protection Council Act of 1992 provides under section 9 (1) that ‘it shall be the duty of the manufacturer or distributor of a product, on becoming aware after such a product has been placed on the market, of any unforeseen hazard rising from the use of such product, to notify immediately the general public of such risk or danger and cause to be withdrawn from the market such product’.”

Also Read:Criminal probe into Coca-Cola, bottler off to shaky start

Subsection two of the same section stipulates that “any person who violates the provisions of subsection (1) above is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to N50 000 fine.”

“It is cause for concern where the CPC is arrogating to itself the powers to impose a whooping N100 050 000 against Coca-Cola Nigeria and Nigeria Bottling Company over a consumer complaint which the regulator has been celebrating in the media,” the concerned rights groups said in a statement.

The case emanates from a consumer claiming they bought half-filled cans of Sprite.

“While the CPC has not claimed to have tested the two half-filled bottles of Sprite in any laboratory to ascertain whether being half filled also means that the contents are not fit for human consumption, the issue has been misleadingly portrayed in the media as a case of harmful products rather than a case of short-filling,” Ekujumi and Olalekan, stated.

They argued the National Agency for Foods and Drugs Administration (NAFDAC) is legally empowered to regulate on food and drugs where carbonated soft drinks fall but CPC in its wisdom would not comply with this provision of the very Act establishing it and collaborate with NAFDAC to ascertain the quality of the contents of the two half filled bottles of Sprite before imposing fines.
“Therefore our stand is that the CPC has not approached this issue with the level of discretion, responsibility and due process expected of an agency of government.”

“We can go on and on but we want to highlight that it is evident that the global business community is watching and this overbearing attitude of the CPC would do Nigeria’s drive for more foreign direct investment no good.”

Comment could not be obtained from CPC.

- CAJ News


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