Unpacking the Consumer Protection Act

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One of the key elements of business is to provide a service and make a profit. Unfortunately in making profit some businesses end up short-changing the consumer. In their haste to make a purchase and lack of knowledge, consumers at times end up compromising their rights.

From this week, New Ziana in partnership with the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) will run a series of informative articles educating the consumer of their right.

Consumer Protection Act Ch 14:14
This Act was promulgated on December 10, 2019 and seeks to protect consumers of goods and services in the market place as well as eliminate unethical suppliers and improper business practices.
Certain unfair business practices that were previously unregulated are now governed by the Act. In terms of the Act, consumers obtain several new rights and some of the existing rights are broadened and reinforced. Therefore, suppliers will need to evaluate their business practices and ensure that they comply with the Act.
Here are some of the provisions in the Act that both Consumers and Business need to be aware of;

Right to Information
Section 26 to 32 of the Consumer Protection Act (CPA), Chapter 14:14 addresses the right to information. The Act clearly stipulates that trade descriptions must not be misleading. The CPA places the onus on business to provide information which must be complete and truthful so that consumers fully understand the terms and conditions of transactions they enter into.
This includes the need by businesses to disclose prices. Prices must be displayed for all products being offered to consumers. This extends to both the formal and informal business. The CPA makes failure to display prices an offence as it compromises the ability of the consumer to make an informed decision. The price displayed must be the price that is charged at the point of sale/ point of transaction.
The Act states that if the price displayed differs from that obtained at the point of sale, the consumer must pay the lowest price that is presented. Service providers therefore need to ensure that their pricing systems and price display mechanisms are in tandem at any point.

Right to Choose
Sub Part C (Section 18-25) of the Act addresses the Right to Choose. Prior to a consumer choosing any product or service, a service provider is expected to explain all key features on the range of products or service the consumer is interested in to enable the consumer to make an informed decision.
With regards to agreements, consumers must be made aware of all charges they will incur, fees, penalties and any other financial obligations that will arise as a result of them taking it up. It is pertinent to note that this exercise is important for business as it will go a long way in ensuring that consumers know their obligations. Repayments can be done in time and employees may experience less stress brought about by constant follow ups and legal battles and failure to meet financial targets. For the consumer, getting enough information makes them plan properly so that they too can fulfil their side of the agreement.

Therefore the CPA is meant to afford the consumer more protection. It provides an extensive framework for consumer protection and aims to develop, enhance and protect the rights of the consumer.

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