Wednesday, December 5, 2007


By Bernard Kihiyo
Tanzania Consumer Advocacy Society had conducted a Consumer Survey that revealed the level of consumer awareness in Tanzania particularly on consumers’ rights, perception and attitudes with respect to businesses’ accountability and responsiveness to consumers’ needs and interests in Tanzania.

This survey was conducted in five regions in Tanzania Mainland - Dar es Salaam, Kilimanjaro, Arusha, Coastal Region, and Mwanza between 1st February 2007 and 27th February 2007.

There is very low Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in Tanzania Consumer survey revealed.

Corporate Social Responsibility can be defined as the continuing commitment by business to behave ethically responsive and accountable to consumers’ needs and interests. This concept generally entails about how companies manage the business processes to produce an overall positive impact on society.

About 3000 Respondents were asked to mention five unfair business practices they experienced for the past 12 months. The information received was of diverse in nature; therefore the report here is not sequentially arranged, what appears down below is randomly picked of the most common severe forms of consumer rights violation by businesses found in Tanzania market;-

The survey revealed that there is poor public transportation system which is characterised by: congestion and delays; uncomfortable travelling conditions; poor vehicle condition; poor customer services; increased road accidents.

Moreover the survey revealed that there is wrong over estimated, inflated bills from Tanzania National Electric Supply Company Limited (TANESCO), and water bodies. The two are giving unreliable services, and their services are characterized with frequent service breakdown in most case without notice, unregulated electric frequency, un-guaranteed water supply, poor quality of water which leads to the spread of water born diseases like typhoid and cholera.

And in most cases there is none or slow action towards genuine complaints- over inflated bills, poor products, professional misconduct and delay on installation of service on water and power.

On the other hand; the market is full of cheating on weights and measurements; there is a lot of under-weights of goods from retail shops, butchery, hardware-cement etc and also there is poor calibration and adulteration for food like cow milk and gasoline at fuel station.

Presence of counterfeit goods which are not durable, poor in quality, unsafe, false labelling and changing of expiry date on products- food, cosmetics and medicine is on the raise. It is believed that 40% of the products in Tanzania markets are counterfeits.

Other notified forms of unethical business conducts such are;- claiming that products are new while they are not- like some of mobile phones on sale in most of the shops in Tanzania. Businesses are claiming that a product comes with warranty while it does not.
There is also poor and unhygienic food handling; also failure of some of suppliers to honour contracts is common unethical business practice in Tanzania market.

Some business are making false claims about a product for instance claiming that goods are from a certain country say England or Japan while they are not most; commonly goods like;-electrical items, domestic appliances and clothes .- it appears that these goods are pre-packed.

Claiming that the product prices have been discounted while they have not, claiming that there are enough stock of goods while it’s not hence creating an artificial shortage all of these unethical business conducts were identified during this survey.

Worse still some business are representing that a service, part, repair or replacement is needed or that a service has been provided, a part has been installed, a repair has been made or a replacement has been provided- automobile repair. Saying that there are facilities where a consumer can go to get his items repaired while there is none. This is cheating and it is against the law.

Charging a price for goods or services that is substantially higher than an estimate provided to the consumer, except where the consumer has expressly agreed to the higher price in advance this is happening especially to the transport operators.

The survey revealed that in some cases human and animal drugs dispensed and managed with unprofessional personnel this is very dangerous to the health of consumers.

The survey also revealed that there are unjustifiable excessive high prices of goods and services in Tanzania market for instance early this year consumers have experienced a sudden hike in the prices of petrol and petroleum products announced by major petroleum; it appears dealers of oil companies are forming a cartel to fix prices in order exploit consumers.
This rise in oil prices necessitated price rise of several essential goods like sugar, maize flour, rice, cooking oil and the like for more than 50% price increament for the past 12 months.

The worst scenario of the situation can be viewed on the following;- Health Care with the concept of CSR; 1829 respondents have seen complex medical cases of alleged negligence by the way of consultation, diagnosis and treatment, cross infection, both medicinal and surgical that led to severe suffering of service recipient like the recent MOI theatre scandal and in some instance death occurred. The most difficulty question is how far should medical/pharmaceutical practitioners be held responsible due to their professional negligence?

Transport and Transportation with the concept of CSR; 1279 Respondents complained on the sharp increase on road accident, last year alone - 2006 more than 2838 people had died due to road accidents, let alone 15,500 others left with permanent disabilities and without forgetting those who lost their properties.

In most cases accident are caused by operators' negligence like; - operating with un-serviced cars, drivers’ negligence, operating without having proper insurances to cover customers and their properties. The most difficulty question is how far should transport operators be held responsible due to their professional negligence?

Public Utility - Water with the concept of CSR; 1705 Respondents commented on unreliable supply water and in some cases the quality of water supplied by regional water authorities is untreated which result to the spread of water born diseases when used for domestic uses. This resulted to consumers’ suffering due to stomach illness which lead to raise of unnecessary hospital bills and sometimes death. How can the regional water Authorities been held responsible if consumers end up having untreated water that gives water born diseases such as cholera and typhoid?.

Public Utility - Electricity with the concept of CSR; 932 Respondents commented on Tanzania National Electric Supply Company Ltd (TANESCO) with power distribution monopoly, in some instances supplies power with unregulated voltage which is characterized with frequent power breakout. Due to this customers are experiencing big loss of profit, huge damages of their electrical items, their properties caught up by fire. On worst scenario several are killed as a result of electrical fault.

This appears to be nobody's business, customers continued to suffer, the most difficulty question is how far should TANESCO be held accountable due to their professional negligence that cause severe suffering to their customers?

General Business with the concept of CSR; 781 respondents said Tanzania market has been flooded with more than 40% counterfeit products like electric goods, cloths, auto parts, characterized with low consumer’s safety, hazardous products and products adulteration. The consumers are risking their lives and are getting big loses due to these products on some instance with very limited products traceability. The most difficulty question is who is allowing these products to cross our boarders?

In case to a situation like this; who is to be held responsible - the government, Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA), business, importer or the regulators – Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS), Tanzania Food and Drugs Authority (TFDA), Energy and Water Utility Regulatory Authority (EWURA), Surface and Marine Transport Regulatory Authority (SUMATRA), or Tanzania Communication Commission Authority (TCCA)?

84.7% of respondents belive that there is very low level of corporte social responsibility in Tanzania as a result of a sharp increase of consumer’s rights violations. The situation is a result of consumer’s lack of understanding on their Consumer’s Rights. Consumers continued to suffer while businesses are making super profit out of consumer’s unwareness and ignorance.
Based on the report by the commissioner for Large Taxpayers Department (LTD) under Tanzania Revenue Authority for fiscal year 2005/06 it shows only 0.03% (370) tax payers were contributed about 38% of total Tanzania Revenue (2.0 trillion) collected. This shows that there are very few people who are extremely rich while majority are still living below poverty line
It is high time for the lawmakers to look into these lines; and see what they can do to protect these innocent consumers from professional misconducts. Tanzania Consumer Advocacy Society TCAS intends to conduct a seminar with Members of Parliament in near future to lobby on these matters.
It should be strongly noted that all professionals who are providing their services based on knowledge, skill and experience but the deficiency or negligence while providing these services can’t be exempted from consumer’s damages, suffering or death. Consumer has to be well compensated in case of any professional misconduct.
To make the market accountable TCAS would like to establish Consumer Private and Public Partnership (CPPP) that will allow all players to air out its needs and interests and find areas where we can strike a balance for instance TCAS will fight for establishment of consumers/producers/importers clubs all over the country.

Moreover TCAS will introduce Annual award to the best manufacturer, supplier, importer, and operator in accordance to the standard and opinions of Tanzania consumers, the award will give feedback to businesses on their business conducts from Tanzania communities especially from consumers.

This Annual Award aims on looking for companies to take a triple bottom line approach to their performance, sensitive to standards, quality, environment, as well as economic impact of their operations. This Award will keenly watch how businesses are applying responsive business practice that can create value chain for the betterment of consumers and that would help a firm to become more cost efficient, accountable and responsive to consumers’ needs and interests.

The Author is Tanzania Consumer Advocacy Society’s Executive Director

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