Malawi’s business community and consumers will commemorate the 2022 World Competition Day (WCD) on Monday, December 5 to be spiced up by a panel discussion at Sunbird Mount Soche Hotel in Blantyre from 18:30hrs to be aired live on Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) Radio and Television.
A statement from Competition and Fair Trading Commission (CFTC) says the panellists will comprise officials from CFTC, COMESA Competition Commission (CCC), Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MCCCI) and National Bank of Malawi — under the theme ‘Competition Policy and Climate Change’.
The CFTC, in line with the world’s mandate, promotes competition and consumer welfare under the Competition and Fair Trading Act (CFTA) by among other things ensuring that enterprises do not engage in conducts that substantially lessen competition.
Among others, the Act prohibits enterprises that enjoy dominant position of market power in a market from misusing their market dominance at the detriment of their competitors as well as consumers.
“In Malawi, misuse of market power is not only a threat to competition but also a danger to consumer welfare,” says acting Executive Director, Apoche Itimu in a statement.
“Through the Commission’s investigations, market studies and surveillances, CFTC has established that some enterprises with market power have been misusing it through a number of conducts.
“These include charging exorbitant prices, supply of goods and services with compromised quality, tying and bundling of goods, discrimination, predatory conduct, and exclusive dealing.”
World Competition Day commemoration dates back to December 5, 1980, when the United Nations adopted the international standard for competition laws — the Set of Multilaterally Agreed Equitable Principles and Rules for the Control of Restrictive Business Practices.
It is commonly known as the United Nations Set of Principles and Rules on Competition, which has guided a large number of developing countries in developing and enacting their competition laws.
Overall mandate of CFTC is to regulate, monitor, control and prevent acts or behaviour which are likely to adversely affect competition and fair trading in Malawi while specific functions are:
* To carry out investigations on anti-competitive trade practices or unfair trading practices;
* To carry out investigations on a proposed merger;
To prevent or redress the abuse of a dominant position by an enterprise;
* To provide persons engaged in business with information regarding their rights and duties under this Act;
* To provide information for the guidance of consumers regarding their rights;
* To undertake studies and make available public reports;
*To cooperate with and assist any association or body of persons to develop and promote the observance of standards of conduct for the purpose of ensuring compliance with the provisions of this Act;
Any person can lodge a complaint with the Commission provided there is evidence in which CFTC investigates the complaint and may mediate for settlement between consumers and traders; order traders to give refund or exchange; issue Cease and Desist Order; issue company behavioural remedies and t dismiss case if not meeting any violations.
CFTC engages with the public on consumer rights and reaches out to the rural masses through community radios and recently re-engaged with the media appealing to the Fourth Estate to help in raising awareness of consumer rights.
Early this month, CFTC appealed to the public not to relent in monitoring and reporting offenders, who have previously been found guilty in unfair trading practices but are continuing their unfair practices, saying if found, such habitual offenders need to be given stiffer punishments in order to address the malpractices by most public service providers.
When found guilty, the penalties for offenders, under the CFTA, shall be liable to a fine of K500,000 and 5 year jail term and Itimu said — while the Government approved reforms to introduce on-spot fines for any consumer violations — the Commission is in the process of reviewing the Act to effect some proposed fines.
She said the set fine was enacted in 2013 and was stiff enough then but some big corporate businesses can just opt to pay the meagre K500,000 fine and continue carrying out unfair trading practices — thus the need to identify habitual offenders to for stiffer punishments under review by the Commission.
Unfair trade practices — as defined in Section 2 of the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) — is carrying out a trade or business practice which adopts unfair method or unfair or deceptive practice for the purpose of promoting the sale, use, supply or provision of goods and services.
Section 43 of the Competition and Fair Trading Act (CFTA) prohibits unfair trading practices that include hoarding/withholding products; excluding liability for defective goods; goods once purchased are not returnable; misrepresentation of products; sale of counterfeit products; misleading conduct; shelf price different from till price; unclear wholesale/retail price details.
Others include unconscionable conduct; unfair consumer contracts; taking undue advantage of power imbalance; supply of harmful products and goods that do not meet standards as well as expired; substandard and uncertified products.
Misleading advertising is also described as unfair trading practices as well as not displaying prices of products; quoting prices in foreign currency; non-issuance of receipts and non-tax compliant receipts.
Malawi developed Competition Policy in 1997 and in 1998, Parliament enacted the CFTA while the Commission (CFTC) was established, in 2012-13, under the CFTA.
Over the years, the Commission has recorded over 1,000 cases and rising with some businesses found guilty more than once — thus CFTC asking the public to continue reporting for possible habitual offenders.
Itimu emphasized that while they also conduct market surveillances in markets to ensure that the law is being followed, the public can alert CFTC through Toll free line 2489.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :