Deputy News Editor
THE implementation of the Consumer Protection Act has begun in earnest, with the Government already tracking prices of goods and services to ensure they are reasonable and afforded by many citizens.
The Department of Policy Research and Consumer Affairs in the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, has since released a price monitoring survey report for Harare and Gweru central business districts for the week ending December 24 last year, which shows that although prices have generally been stable, a few unscrupulous traders marginally increased prices especially for meat, maize-meal and flour during the festive season.
President Mnangagwa recently launched the Consumer Protection Act, which replaced the Consumer Contracts Act.
Under the new law, unscrupulous businesspeople who engage in unfair practices such as multi-tier pricing, fraudulent offers, failure to label products properly and disclose consumers’ personal information to third parties, are liable for prosecution.
In an interview last week, Industry and Commerce Minister Dr Sekai Nzenza said following the launch of the Consumer Protection Act, “my ministry has started implementing it”.
“The key priorities are to maintain price stability by working with retailers in dialogue. As a ministry we are focused on ensuring that the consumer’s rights are protected and basic commodities are available at reasonable prices especially during this holiday period when most manufacturing is low.
“Overall, goods and services have been accessible and to a large extent, affordable. In Bulawayo, the use of the Rand and the Pula is showing general price discrepancies compared to the rest of the provinces,” said Minister Nzenza.
The Department of Consumer Affairs undertook a survey of price movements as well as availability of the 16 monitored commodities, which include mealie-meal, sugar, cooking oil and washing soaps.
According to the latest report, the survey noted a significant price increase on some basic commodities such as cooking oil and meat (beef and chicken) in Harare CBD compared to last week.
“The supply of commonly used basic commodities are experiencing a stability as witnessed by their presence on shelves. Prices of roller maize meal increased from a range of $476 and $559,99 per 10kg packet depending with brand and retail outlet,” reads the report.
“The survey noted an increase in prices of most brands of self-raising flour. For instance, Gloria flour increased by 1,64 percent on average from an average price of $197,99 to $201,28 and Azam flour increased by 2,72 percent from an average price of $165,24 to $169,75.
“Prices fell for some products such as surf 1kg (23 percent), Ekono bath soap (16 percent) and chicken (12 percent).”
In the Midlands, a survey was carried out in major retail outlets in Gweru CBD such as OK Zimbabwe, Choppies and Pick n Pay during the week under review.
Critically, the survey found out that products were generally available while the average shelf occupancy for local maize meal against imports is about 95 percent.
During the survey, it was also observed that fuel was generally available although most garages are now selling in foreign currency.
Through the new Act, consumers are now entitled to be fully refunded for defective or sub-standard goods and can individually approach the courts for redress or refer their complaints to the Consumer Protection Commission set up in the new Act. The commission will enforce the Act through investigators and inspectors deployed across the country and will be aided by consumer advocacy organisations.