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Ministry of Commerce trade and Industry

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CCPC cautions consumers against misleading information on some websites

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) has expressed concern over some websites using misleading information with the aim to attract more customers in order to attain high profit margins for the sale of products and services.

Recently, the Commission under the African Consumer Protection Dialogue (AD), a network that focuses on consumer protection issues around Africa, conducted an internet sweep. The sweep which is a review of websites with potential unfair trade practices focused on Disclosure of Terms and Conditions in e-commerce transactions and was done on 235 websites.

Following the Sweep, the Commission has noted with concern that most of the international online sales platforms were cited to possess information that was misleading and seemingly fraudulent, deceptive and unfair to consumers transacting online.

The Commission has noted that 81% of the websites were characterized with information relating to unclear privacy and restrictive return policies, misleading information on pricing and hidden terms and conditions.

Thus, the Commission has noted that these practices are a detriment and unfair to the consumers and they are also a likely violation of Sections 45, 47, 49(5) and 53 of the Competition Consumer Protection (CCPA) Act which clearly prohibits unfair trading practices and false or misleading representations.

CCPC Executive Director, Mr. Chilufya Sampa has disclosed that the results of the sweep indicated a high sense of worry to the Commission as most of the information displayed on websites were in fine print and had no provision for cancellation as well as privacy policies to consumers.

The Commission thus wishes to advice consumers to be careful when transacting using online platforms especially those which do not provide adequate information and a comprehensive redress mechanism.

Consumers are further cautioned to always be on the lookout for information that appears to be seemingly enticing such as flash sales and limited quantity products, unsubstantiated and discount claims as well as the display of prices which have hidden additional charges and fees.

The Commission further wishes to advice Consumers that it is their responsibility to consider taking precautionary measures by understanding fundamental terms and conditions associated with any transaction as failure to doing so would affect them in an event of a grievance.

The Commission also takes this opportunity to warn all firms’ who might have been using misleading information for attainment of sales or any other agenda to desist from engaging into such illegal practices punishable by the law.

Further, firms and the business community are encouraged to consider embracing the culture of full disclosure of terms and conditions to their respective customers as that would assist them gain confidence and trust from their clients.

CCPC has a mandate to promote competition and protect consumer welfare for the growth of the economy and benefit of the people of Zambia

Namukolo Munyeme Kasumpa

CCPC warns against unscrupulous Insurance Agents

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) has expressed concern on the rise of unscrupulous individuals who have embarked on exploiting consumers by masquerading as agents for some insurance companies. The Commission recorded an increase in the number of consumer complaints recorded during the period January to September, 2019 which indicate that 18% of the Two Thousand and Forty Two (2042) consumer cases it has investigated emanate from the insurance sector with the most exploited individuals being rural based civil servants.

CCPC Director Consumer Protection Brian Lingela has observed that the incidence of complaints from the insurance sector regarding unfair trading practices by insurance agents has increased and is second only to retail trade which stood at 45%. He said that the majority of the cases the Commission has been handling show that some insurance agents and employees have resorted to using consumers’ personal details to enlist them to insurance products and services without their consent.

The Commission has established that unscrupulous insurance agents enlist consumers to insurance policies they have not consented to. Consumers, especially civil servants in rural parts of the country often get shocked to see deductions on their pay slips for policies they have not consented to. This trend is common in Western, Eastern, Muchinga, North Western, Southern, Northern and Luapula provinces.Further, the Commission has observed that some agents move from insurance company to another along with their previous customers’ personal details after being dismissed by their employers. The personal details are then used by agentsto meet sales targets for their new employers and in the process result in unsolicited pay slip deductions to the detriment of consumers. 

It is of great concern to the Commission that while it is easy to effect salary deductions for unsolicited insurance products, it can take more than six months to a year to stop the deductions. This conduct is not only fraudulent but violates Sections 45, 47 and 49 (5) of the Competition and Consumer Protection Act (CCPA) No.24 of 2010 which clearly prohibits unfair trading practices and false or misleading representations and is punishable with a fine not exceeding ten percent of an enterprise’s annual turnover.
In addition, agents engaging in fraudulent transactions will be personally liable and can be prosecuted.

The Commission is therefore, advising civil servants especially in rural parts of the country to desist from disclosing confidential information such as their National Registration Cards (N.R.C) and Employee Numbers to individuals who may claim to be agents of any insurance company until they are ready to accept a proposed insurance contract.

The Commission is further warning insurance companies to ensure their agents do not engage in such conduct as they will be punished as principals. CCPC is mandated by law to enhance Competition and promote Consumer welfare for the growth of the economy and benefit of the people of Zambia.

Namukolo Kasumpa

CCPC warns PAZ and MAZ against Price Dictation

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) has noted with concern that the Poultry Association of Zambia (PAZ) and Millers Association of Zambia (MAZ) have continued to exhibit behavior of agreeing and subsequently announcing the prices of day old chicks and mealie-meal. This development comes after PAZ and MAZ were cited of having issued media statements in which the duo announced the possible hike in the prices of day old chicks and mealie-meal on 28th and 29th October, 2019 through the Zambia Daily Mail newspaper and Hot Fm radio station respectively. The Commission has thus found this conduct to be a likely violation of Sections 8 and 9 of the Competition and Consumer Protection (CCPA) Act No. 24 of 2010 which clearly prohibits concerted practices and cartelistic conducts by players and members of the Associations The Commission also notes that the conduct by the two Associations signals price direction and creates anticipation on the market which is unnecessary and may distort independent decision making on pricing of day old chicks and mealie-meal by players. And CCPC Director Restrictive Business Practices, Mrs. Naomi Fulaza stated that both PAZ and MAZ have cases before the Competition and Consumer Protection Tribunal (CCPT) relating to similar conduct. Mrs. Fulaza added that it was sad and unfortunate that Associations such as PAZ and MAZ can continue to make pronouncements related to price increment when the Commission has engaged them on the ills of such conduct. As the Commission would expect that such Associations be in the fore front of ensuring that they and their members abide by the laws of the land. The Commission has since warned PAZ and MAZ not to engage in conduct that is likely to prevent, distort or restrict competition such as price fixing. CCPC is mandated by law to enhance Competition and promote Consumer welfare for the growth of the economy and benefit of the people of Zambia.

Namukolo Kasumpa

CCPC grants Amnesty to businesses

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (“the Commission”) is as of 1st September, 2019, running a six month Amnesty Programme; up to the 28th of February, 2020. The aim of the programme is to raise awareness and compliance with the Competition and Consumer Protection Act No 24 of 2010 (“the Act”) by availing persons or enterprises engaged in cartel conduct and Restrictive Business Practices (RBPs) an opportunity to desist from further abrogating the Act; in exchange for a waiver of fines as well as immunity from possible prosecution. This programme focuses on all subsectors of the economy and covers agreements deemed as anti-competitive or restrictive of competition under the Act. The Commission through this programme and in line with Section 79 of the Act encourages persons and enterprises to come forward to the Commission with information that helps to demonstrate the existence of a prohibited agreement. The said information should be of such quality and degree of detail that it increases the chances of proving the existence of the prohibited agreement which the Commission would ideally have not been privy or have access to at all without investigation. In light of this, the Commission is thus offering an opportunity to persons or enterprises to apply for amnesty and subsequently become good corporate citizens by complying with the Act. Persons or enterprises who may not be sure whether their conduct or agreement is in breach of the Act are free to engage the Commission in person, or through their legal representatives; anonymously or otherwise. Note should be taken that the Amnesty Programme is restricted to Part III of the Act, and will therefore not extend to Mergers or Unfair Trading covered under Parts IV and VII of the Act respectively.

Namukolo Kasumpa