Sunday, December 2, 2007

Consumer awareness is no laughing matter

The Guardian; 2007-11-08 08:38:49 By The Editor

Years into the mayhem caused by the flooding of Tanzania with counterfeit or expired consumer items, we are yet to see enough really serious efforts to solve the problem. If anything, the situation has worsened in recent years.

Yes, the Government has come up with a number of initiatives meant to stem the disastrously furious tide - among them the establishment of sectoral watchdog bodies like the Tanzania Bureau of Standards, Tanzania Food and Drugs Authority, and Fair Trade Commission, and Energy and Water Utilities Regulatory Authority. However, these have until now done precious little to clear the mess.
Unfortunately, partly because of lack of awareness on the risks attendant to the use of fake or expired goods, even the consuming public has not done much to help. But now a body known as Tanzania Consumers Advocacy Society reports that it is contemplating a nationwide consumer awareness crusade to support Government efforts in fighting counterfeit products. At least that is the belief of its executive director, Bernard Kihiyo.
Kihiyo says legal and other interventions have all but lost the war against hazardous goods, leaving consumers at the mercy of dishonest producers and other commercial interests out to make super profits even at the expense of public health and security.
Does anyone see TCAS boosting consumer awareness in the country appreciably enough to arrest the influx of counterfeit industrial and other items that have slowly but surely turned Tanzania into a dumpsite of shoddy goods rejected, derided or abhorred everywhere else?
Kihiyo swears that they will make it and that it will not be nightfall before Tanzanians have a full grasp of their basic rights and responsibilities as consumers.
The day this bold statement of intent leads to concrete interventions able to pull the sting of destruction from the goods and services available in our marketplace will be a truly great and memorable one.
It is decades since governments and various other institutions in different parts of the world began taking measures, including legal ones, to help consumers understand their rights and responsibilities.
Initially, only these were identified as the basic rights of consumers: the rights to choose, to safety, to be informed, and to be heard. However, the list was later also to include the right to protection, redress or remedy vis-a-vis hazardous products and services.
As Kihiyo recounts, consumers are entitled to assurance that quality products and services are available for them to choose and buy at competitive prices.
Consumers also enjoy the rights to be heard and to expect positive results from both business and Government in the event of problems leading to dissatisfaction.
Where things work to plan, consumers also enjoy the right to be treated with respect and to an appropriate response to their needs and problems even if no purchase is actually made.
Tanzania is still miles away from that noble target but agencies like TCAS could, in their own small way, serve as saviours. They deserve full support because consumer awareness is serious business.

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