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Published On: Thu, Apr 23rd, 2020

Covid19: Consumer Commission begins prosecution of merchants hiking prices of goods

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By Miriam Humbe

The Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) has said that it is is already pursuing criminal charges against some suppliers and retailers who are flagrant or repeat violators of its order against hike in Covid-19 goods and is expanding investigation into other players and industries.
The Commission through its Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Babatunde Irukera restated its determination (including retrospectively after the pandemic) to hold violators to the appropriate weight of the law.
He said that the Commission’s current operational priorities remain addressing key competition and consumer protection issues related to and arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Irukera said : “With respect to consumer protection, the Commission notes that the prevalent aggravation and complaints are failed electronic banking transactions and associated delays in restoration, reconciliation or resolution; slow speed/throttling of internet connectivity/speed as well arbitrary and inexplicable charges for data; restricted access or delayed signal release after payment for payTV services; continuing irrational and excessive increases in prices of certain medical devices (infrared thermometers), basic relevant hygiene products (Sanitizers, Facemasks) and certain medications (Chloroquine and Vitamin C); and food items; continuing insufficient supply of electricity and arbitrary billing.
“Although some suppliers and retailers have demonstrated circumspection in compliance with the Commission’s release and update noted above, as well as enforcement efforts, some others have continued or taken advantage of the current restriction on movement to unfairly, increase prices in an unreasonable manner to manifestly unjust levels.
“As such, and in furtherance of its special COVID-19 focus and response, the Commission has created a dedicated platform for the pandemic related complaints, more particularly the ones related to the prevalent issues identified above.
“Indeed, the Commission is operating with limited capacity to address the mirage of complaints and recognizes that many industry players are experiencing similar limitations, it still encourages producers and providers to prioritize compliance with consumer protection laws and responsiveness to their customers.
He revealed that COVID-19 related complaints and or feedback regarding the issues identified above may be filed at the dedicated COVID-19 complainf portal:https://covid19.fccpc.gov.ng; 07086159973.
“Consumers are implored to understand that because of the volume of complaints/feedback we are unable to provide individual responses or case progress all the time, however, we are aggregating the complaints and addressing them since they are similar.
“Other COVID-19 related violations such as scams and misleading advertisement about vaccines, therapies or cures for COVID-19 should also be addressed to the dedicated portal and will be met with stiff penalties.
“The Commission will continue to provide further guidance on its operations and how stakeholders can engage the Commission or conduct their business with the Commission during this period.
“The Commission again advises consumers to avoid large gatherings, including markets/stores to make needless or non-essential purchases, and to practice the strongest discipline in staying at home and enforcing social distancing measures”, he said.

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