FOR sure, with the new Consumer Protection Bill just signed into law by Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) of Lagos State, hard penalty awaits producers, suppliers or sellers of any sub-standard product that could cause wholly or partial damage to the consumer.
According to Section 37 of the new law, a person convicted for the first time on any of the provisions of the law is liable to a fine of Five hundred thousand naira (N500,000) or a jail term of three months or both.
If convicted for the second time, the person is liable to a fine of Seven hundred and fifty thousand (N750,000) or a jail term of six years imprisonment or both.
Aside this corrective measures, the offender in addition, may be ordered by the law court to pay an amount of money as a form of compensation in respect of any loss or damage to the consumer.
This is not all, the court may also order the offender of the consumer agency that facilitated his prosecution to pay the cost of investigation, detection and prosecution of the offence.
Section 40 of the law also empowers the court to order the convicted person to publish corrective statement.
What constitutes an offence under the provisions of this new law is basically producing, supplying or selling goods or services that are sub-standard or that cause damage to the consumer.
Damage, according to the provisions of the law means death, personal injury, any loss or damage to any property including economic loss.
The law also made provision for the establishment of Consumer Protection Agency.
The functions of the agency amongst others include :
(i) To ensuring speedy redress of consumer complaints through negotiation, mediation and conciliation.
(ii) To advise the state government on consumer protection policies.
(iii) To ensure the replacement of hazardous products with safe products and seek ways and means of eliminating hazardous products from the market in conjunction with the relevant government agencies.
(iv) To initiate investigations in its own name whether upon the receipt of a complaint or not.
(v) To publish, from time to time the list of products, the consumption and sale of which have been banned, withdrawn, restricted or not approved by the appropriate Federal Government Agencies.
(vi) To cause an offending company, firm, trade association or individual to compensate or provide relief to injured consumers or communities as a result of adverse effects of harmful products.
‘Why I sponsored the Consumer Protection Bill’
– RT. HON. ADEYEMI IKUFORIJI
The Consumer Protection Bill which he initiated as far back as 2006 was recently passed into law when Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) assented to it.
ENCOMIUM Weekly sought audience with Ikuforiji on why he sponsored the bill.
You sponsored the Consumer Protection Bill which was passed into law recently. What would you say informed the sponsorship?
That is true but before I go on to tell you what informed the sponsoring of the bill, I want to seize this opportunity to thank one of my colleagues, a brother, the man representing Ikorodu Constituency I, Hon. Sinai Agunbiade, who actually assisted a lot in getting the bill to its final stage. I have been fidgeting with the idea before I became the Speaker in 2005. So, immediately I became the Speaker, I spoke with one of the legal officers then, Mrs. Yemisi Ogunlolu. I also thank her because she was very instrumental in getting the bill to come alive.
As a matter of fact, she more or less did the drafting of the bill.
What would you say informed your sponsoring the bill?
Two things that have always been agitating my mind before I came into the House of Assembly is the issue of consumer and environmental protection. Good enough, the Commissioner of Environment then who fortunately is also the Commissioner now, Mr. Tunji Bello, told me of his intention to consolidate the environmental laws of the state. So, I backed off from the environmental protection bill.
But with the Consumer Protection Bill, I decided to concentrate my efforts because I realized that Nigerian consumers are short changed a lot.
Nigerian consumers are at the receiving end. They are not protected as they should. That’s why I felt I must do something about the law.
Now that the bill has been passed into law and assented to by the governor, in what way do you think the common man will benefit from it?
The law is for everybody, whether rich or poor. As long as you buy things either from the market, stores or what have you, you are a consumer. So, every consumer will be protected by the law. For now, the law is on its gestation period which is going to be for six months. This is to allow both the consumers and the traders to be aware of the law. Very soon, enough publicity will be given to the law for people to be aware of its existence.
Yes, I agree with you the masses will benefit most but the law is for everybody.
Have you been short changed in the course of buying something before?
That is a very common thing in this country. For example, look at the GSM operators in the country. What virtually all of them do is more of a rip-off and the people are at the receiving end.
This is the only country where you will buy cashew nut like this (using the one on his table as an example) and you discover that it’s full of sand. Getting another one is almost impossible. They will tell you there is nothing they can do because you have taken it away.
But in a country where people, particularly powerful people, don’t obey laws, are there enough provisions in the law to sanction those who disobey it?
If you look at the provisions of the law, you will see that its comprehensive.
– TOLANI ABATTI