The Consumer Protection Council (CPC) and senior management of the online marketing companies had a meeting today, March 15, 2018; in part to commemorate World Consumer Rights Day 2018 themed: “Making the Digital Marketplaces Fairer”
The meeting focused on the current consumer experience in the online shopping marketplace. The particular concern that was the subject of discussion was protecting consumers as well as protecting and legitimate and responsible online marketing companies and their brands.
Both the Council and the online marketing companies agreed that only a robust, ethical and well regulated industry can promote consumer confidence and eliminate distrust; prevent fraud and market entry by those who seek to exploit and defraud.
Parties also recognize that technological disruption and innovation remain a vital catalyst for economic expansion, commercial penetration and shared prosperity.
As such the Council and online marketing companies acknowledge that clear and transparent guiding principles, Guidance and a regulatory framework is important to growing and sustaining a vibrant E-commerce industry.
In recognition the Council and online marketing companies adopt certain guiding principles with respect to E-commerce.
Medview Airlines Flight VL2108 operated by a Boeing 737 equipment with a flight schedule of Lagos-Abuja-Maiduguri (LOS-ABV-MIU) completed the Lagos to Abuja segment. At approximately 1400HRS while attempting to depart Abuja to Maiduguri on the final segment of the sector, the flight had a Ramp Return (return to base after commencing taxiing) on account of a safety issue.
Specifically, an indicator lamp signifying a minor disorder emerged. The Captain, exercising the appropriate abundance of caution and in compliance with applicable safety standards aborted the flight and returned to base for technical assistance.
All passengers disembarked in an orderly manner, returned to the lounge and were catered to by the airline in accordance with relevant Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations regarding treatment of passengers during delays. Engineers are currently concluding minor repairs so that the aircraft can become operational. The flight to Maiduguri is expected to operate shortly, either by same aircraft, or a redundancy/recovery plan that Medview has informed the Consumer Protection Council is in place.
CPC has been in communication with Medview, and the airline informs that, at no time was there an emergency, and passengers were never at risk. CPC will continue to monitor the situation, and provide updates, if necessary.
The Consumer Protection Council (CPC) has appraised the interaction between the nation’s electricity distribution companies (DISCOs) and their consumers, declaring that arbitrary billing and group disconnection of electricity consumers without consideration for those paying their bills constitute a gross abuse of consumer rights.
The Director General of the Council, Babatunde Irukera, said these in Abuja, at a meeting with the top management of Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) led by its Managing Director, Engineer Ernest Mupwaya. The Director General noted that the vast majority of complaints in the sector are these two issues.
Irukera, while expressing understanding about challenges in the industry, said “there is no excuse for how consumers are treated”.
He pointed out that “the key complaints that we receive are arbitrary, unsupported and unreasonable billing; people not being treated with dignity, the complaint resolution process is either lacking or unclear and there’s really no respect for people”.
The director general disclosed that consumers’ complaints have not been primarily about supply, but about billing for non-existent supply, stressing that “as a matter of fact, a vast majority of supply complaints are attributed to the fact that you are asking them to pay for something that was not supplied and the other significant reason is group disconnection”.
According to him, “DISCOs have gotten to a point where no one takes their bills seriously anymore, because they are considered outrageous. I think the pressure on metering will not be so bad if the estimated billing was more transparent and reasonable”.
He noted with regret that “what DISCOs are doing is connecting their balance sheets to receivables from consumers, but consumers are connecting what they owe to what they receive”.
Irukera, while charging the distribution companies to stop the arbitrary billing system, asserted that “connecting balance sheet to an opaque arbitrary metering system is the worst form of abuse, especially for an essential public utility”.
He also contended that group disconnection usually adopted by distribution companies because of the debts owed by some members of the affected groups unfortunately disregards and undermines the rights of other consumers in the groups who did not owe.
He stated: “You see people who are complaining about supply because they, as individuals, have been responsible, but the DISCOs have painted them with a broad stroke and disconnected even the responsible people. As a lawyer, our approach to criminal work, even legal work, has always been that let the guilty man go free instead of punishing the innocent man.
“For me, there’s something fundamentally, absolutely irreparable and inexcusably wrong with penalising people because of the conduct of others. It is just not excusable. Government should never do that to its people. But if government does it as a state actor, as inexcusable as it is, it might even be permissible. But one person who has absolutely no right and should never have the prerogative to do it is a private citizen to another private citizen. And that is what DISCOs do. They group-disconnect consumers. If there’s one responsible consumer who is being disconnected unjustly, what you are doing is that you are discouraging responsibility”, he added.
The CPC boss observed that group disconnection is antithetical to the promotion of an enabling environment for investment, stressing that it “is the quintessential case for mistreatment of an otherwise responsible consumer”.
Earlier, the AEDC managing director had spoken of the need for the company to have a cost reflective tariff for it to have a seamless and a more robust operation, stressing that fluctuation in foreign exchange rates and inflation impact on its activities.
On the issue of estimated billing, he disclosed that efforts are being made to address the metering gap with more meters for consumers and the adoption of an interim plan of metering transformers for a more accurate estimation.
He stated: “The issue of estimated billing has not been fully resolved because of the low rate of metering, and this is closely tied with the impairment on the balance sheet which is tied to tariff issues. The balance sheets are impaired to the extent that we are facing huge challenges to attract investments. But I must say that the government, through the power sector recovery programme, has put up a plan that will address these gaps.
“There will be a reset this year, and there will be some level of adjustments in such a way that the balance sheets will look better, and this will give us impetus to get more finances. I think the whole plan is premised on DISCOs being able to meter customers 100% over 24 months. So we have positioned our sales to meet this challenge of metering. But beyond that, we realised that whereas it is important to meter every customer, there is a very quick win to meter all the transformers”, he said.
According to him, the value of metering transformers is that “even in cases where we have to do an estimate, the estimate becomes very accurate, because it is being done on the basis of measured energy up to the level of distribution transformers, unlike now where these formulas are being applied over a large cluster.
“If you pick a large cluster, there will be distortions of the outliers. There will be customers who will have high estimated bills, there will be others who will have low estimated bills. But if you are doing your estimated billings at the level of the transformer, then you are more accurate, and the other benefit is that you can quickly identify areas, transformers and even customers where electricity is being stolen, because it is important to identify leakages in power, because leakages distort the sharing formula. If everybody is identified and there is equitable sharing, then the estimated billing becomes very accurate. And this will be followed by the actual mass metering. But before the mass metering arrives, we think we can have every means to do the transformer metering”, he added.
The Director General of the Consumer Protection Council (CPC), Babatunde Irukera and his counterpart, at the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Professor Moji Adeyeye at the weekend agreed to collaborate to fight the menace of counterfeit and adulterated products in the country.
Both organisations’ Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) had extensive discussions on a wide variety of national and citizens’ protection issues when Irukera visited the NAFDAC DG at NAFDAC Headquarters on Friday.
Key subjects of the discussions included mutual collaboration for more robust protection in the food and drugs sector,
Also, they both underscored the urgent need for broad, focused and strategic intervention in the problem of adulteration and counterfeiting.
In particular, Irukera and Adeyeye noted that this problem is a major threat to the key mandate of both organisations because substandard goods not only violate statutory standards; they also endanger lives and erode consumer confidence.
A major outcome of the meeting is a mutual commitment to jointly deploy the assets and resources of their respective agencies to address this menace.
The meeting further identified other opportunities for cooperation and agreed that follow-up meetings and a structure for joint project execution is in the best interest of consumers.
Speaking after the meeting, the DG of CPC thanked his counterpart in NAFDAC for her warm reception and readiness to partner, noting that the cooperative regulatory approach she has adopted and endorsed exemplifies the best possible strategy to secure the nation in the food and drug sector.
Irukera expressed confidence that the resolutions reached at the meeting will go a long way in addressing questions of quality and standards in the industry, which will be to the benefit of consumers.
Dana Airlines Flight 9J0363 operating from Abuja to Port-Harcourt on February 20, 2018, landed at approximately 19:30hrs and overshot the runway. Cause of incident still unknown but under investigation. Aircraft damaged, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) notified and already in control. Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) secured perimeter scene of incident. 50 Souls On Board (SOB) made up of 44 passengers and 6 crew.
Thankfully, all passengers and crew were safely evacuated without injury. The Consumer Protection Council congratulates relevant airport and aviation authorities, as well as the airline for this safe evacuation and management of what could otherwise have been tragic.
The Council further calls for calm as we await more information and a detailed investigation by the Accident Investigation Bureau in compliance with ICAO standards. In addition, the Council has been in communication with the airline and NCAA. The Council understands that Dana Air has provided logistic support and accommodation to passengers. The Council insists this must comply with minimum standards in accordance with prevailing Regulations under Part 19, Nigerian Civil Aviation Rules (NCAR).
An open, transparent, sensitive and responsive approach by the airline and relevant authorities is vital to sustaining confidence and assuring consumers. The Council welcomes this openness and attention to consumers, including providing medical or psychological support where necessary.
The Consumer Protection Council in collaboration with the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, other aviation agencies and service providers remains available to all passengers in the sector to answer questions, provide assistance and required assurances at this and other times.
The Director General of the Consumer Protection Council (CPC), Babatunde Irukera, has insisted that businesses in the country must be responsive to consumer grievances and must institutionalize and prioritize complaint resolution policies and mechanism, stressing that this is the hallmark of company and brand reputation.
Irukera noted that the current regime was unsustainable as it is tantamount to government subsidizing business, stating that the CPC should not substitute company customer care as a multi-company customer service desk.
Specifically, he opined that businesses have factored the cost of complaint resolution into their profitability and as such should not outsource it to the government, while underscoring the important role of the CPC in ensuring resolution that is fair and equitable.
The director general made the assertion while a more collaborative relationship with the Civil Society, Consumer Protection Associations (CPAs), Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs) and Community-Based Organisations (CBOs) at a round-table session organized by the Council in Abuja.
He argued that “companies have both commercial and social contracts with consumers. to companies, they customers, not consumers.
On the motive behind the round table forum, Irukera asserted that the Council seeks an effective partnership with the civil society for robust protection of consumers across our vast country.
According to him, “any credible and people-oriented leadership will embrace civil society and as such for me, an engagement with those in civil society is paramount”.
As part of the new engagement, the director general disclosed that the Council was implementing a more stringent registration process for CSOs, NGOs, CBOs and CPAs, explaining that the additional scrutiny is to ensure the integrity and credibility of both the Council and its partners.
Irukera, while fielding questions from reporters after addressing the session, said “the most important thing to achieve from here is to first of all, let the civil society generally know that we believe that the shared burden of consumer protection is something that we must continue to emphasise and highlight and to also create a network where we are exchanging and ideas and direction.”
Also speaking at the event, the representative of the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), Professor Abimbola Uzomah observed that the work of consumer protection should not be left to the Council alone, emphasizing that it was the responsibility of every Nigerian consumer to entrench a virile consumer protection in Nigeria.
Uzomah, who said market-place abuse has become so prevalent in Nigeria because of consumer apathy, commended the Council for organising the strategic engagement with NGOs, CBOs and other relevant stakeholders with the aim of extending consumer education to the grassroots.