Body seeks media, others’ support to tackle consumer abuse
The Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) is seeking support of the media and other professional bodies to tackle the menace of consumer abuse. Chief Executive Officer of FCCPC, Babatunde Irukera, who spoke with journalists and members of other professions in Lagos, said the commission hopes to make more impact in consumers’ lives through strategic partnerships. He described the partnership with the media as one that would help the commission ‘succeed in protecting citizens’.
According to him, “The reality of the benefit of news is for the readers, viewers and not for the newsmakers. For a consumer protection regulator, your scorecard will always be about how people are treated and not how many news hits you have. The media is the influencer in driving our objectives of a vibrant consumer space where consumers are very discriminatory, demanding and being insistent on their rights from those who provide services to them, as well as those who regulate the goods and services.”
Early this year, President Muhammadu Buhari assented to the FCCPC Bill, which had eluded the commission for 18 years. The now FCCPC Act 2019 is described as the most prolific legislation for promoting consumer confidence, choice and fair pricing. And because brand reputation is key to business survival, the CEO pointed out that service providers were afraid of the media, hence, “they play it safe when media is involved. The media keep us on our toes. I urge you to investigate and give us feedback to help us protect the consumers better.”
He further lamented the low level of law enforcement in Nigeria, saying, “A lot of how we do our work, how we save lives is worrisome. Everywhere in the world where rights are respected, the regulator is the least recognised. Until the Nigerian consumer is fully regarded, our mission is still a work in progress. The journalist does not report but influence and owes it to the reader to hold people, organisations, companies, governments and others accountable.”
Recall that the FCCPC, in collaboration with Federal Ministry of Health, launched the Patients’ Bill of Rights (PBoR) in July 2018, which aggregates the already existing rights of patients in multiple professional ethical codes and pieces of legislation.
Irukera stressed that the media must have a transparent open enquiry on the issue, noting, “For example, this controversy of police report before patients are attended to, which has sent many to the grave must be stopped. It is not a philosophical debate; it is costing lives. The media should also address some of the critical infrastructure that must be put in place to save lives, like ambulance training for paramedics, which takes just about six months. HMOs exist, why can’t ambulance be part of the insurance?”
Similarly, while addressing members of different professional associations, Irukera said the commission understood the major wish of consumers to get value for money on products and services, saying, “As regulators, there is need to partner various professional bodies to help consumers achieve their aims. We intend to have an aligned objective with professional associations for our operations to be seamless.
“Making it in business is a matter of law, but law requires fundamental engagement. There is a new space for the law, which is well captured in the consumer protection law, and for the first time, we are having an independent legislative framework for managing competition.”
While taking them through the law governing the council, he stated that section 17A of the law states that the commission would be responsible for the administration of the Act, and any other enactment with respect to competition and information of consumers.
He further stressed that the forum was initiated to formulate partnership, adding, “As an association, you should have standard, and you should not accept anything below your standard. This will also help in tackling the problem of quackery among you.”
While responding, representative of various groups admitted that the meeting was necessary to address salient issues that concern consumer abuse in the country.