The Ides of March are come for businesses that unjustifiably hike prices of goods and services as they could soon have their licences revoked for unfair practices under an operation to rein in market indiscipline.
The Consumer Protection Commission has deployed price monitors to flush out businesses that flagrantly hike prices of goods and services, in an operation it has embarked on in collaboration with law enforcement agencies.
The Government has ruled out price controls.
The Sunday Mail has gathered that investigators from the statutory consumer watchdog are carrying out impromptu site visits to business premises to audit their pricing structures.
CPC chairperson Dr Mthokozisi Nkosi told The Sunday Mail that there was no justification to pricing “madness”.
“The Commission in consultation with other arms of the Government is closely following this behaviour with keen interest,” said Dr Nkosi.
“We are receiving updates on a regular basis from our price monitoring team on these service providers.
“There is very little justification for these price hikes as the cost of inputs is relatively stable.
“Our investigators are on the ground to unearth the motive behind this madness.
“We urge the sectorial associations to reign in their members before we take the drastic action which include revoking licenses of habitual offenders.”
Recently, some businesses hiked prices after the Government gazetted new regulations to protect consumers from unfair pricing.
Statutory Instrument (SI) 127 of 2021 came into effect on May 28 to address the rampant abuse of foreign currency accessed through the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ)’s weekly foreign currency auction.
It compels businesses to price their goods and services at the prevailing official exchange rate.
He said the Commission will soon introduce new regulations to arrest indiscipline.
Specialised consumer rights courts, he said, will be established, warning that the days of using moral suasion to solve consumer disputes were over.
“The Commission is currently
working with the Attorney General’s office on regulations covering different sectors of the economy.
“In addition, we are also in discussion with the Judicial Services Commission for specialised consumer courts. Very soon the exercise will be complete.
“The days of moral suasion in solving consumer disputes are over. We expect service providers to do the right thing. Consumers have suffered enough abuse.”
Dr Nkosi said consumer protection was an integral part of a modern, efficient, effective and just market place.
“Confident consumers are one of the important drivers of industry competitiveness.
“By demanding competitive prices, improved product quality and better service, consumers provide an impetus for innovation and enhanced performance by business.
“This is important for the attainment of the 2030 upper middle-income class vision as pronounced by President Emmerson Mnangagwa.”
The CPC came into being through the Consumer Protection Act in 2019.
It has the power to fine businesses for unethical practices, including unfair pricing.
In addition, businesses that engage in multi-tier pricing and display unpriced goods are liable to hefty fines in terms of the law.
Consumers are entitled to full refunds for defective or sub-standard goods.
Other offences that attract deterrent penalties include fraudulent offers, failure to label products properly and the disclosure of consumers’ personal information to third parties.