Consumers deserve safety, fairness


March 15 is gone, but, as consumers of various goods and services, I feel it is not too late to reflect on this year’s World Consumer Rights Day theme Making Digital Marketplaces Fairer.

In celebrating the World Consumer Rights Day 2018, Consumers International appealed for fairer digital market places.

I found the focus befitting because today electronic commerce (e-commerce) is the way of life which has transformed how people undertake their shopping.

Through e-commerce, today’s consumers do not need to move around with wads of cash as they can make payments by simply swiping their automated teller machine (ATM) cards at point of sale (PoS) devices in merchant shops. Where the PoS gadgets are not available, or not working (as is common in most merchant shops in Malawi), ATMs are conveniently located to allow consumers withdraw money and make payments.

Besides, today consumers can also make orders and payments using the Internet or mobilemoney from any corner of the world and at their convenience.

Consumers International said in 2017 global e-commerce sales reached $2.29 trillion. This was achieved against the fact that 70 in every 100 consumers worry that their digital payments are not safe. Half of the world’s population estimated at 7.6 billion is still offline.

While digital platforms are the in-thing, it is critical that consumers are protected from fraudsters who are always devising new tricks to swindle unsuspecting consumers.

In Malawi, I was impressed with the Competition and Fair Trading Commission (CFTC) for raiding Shoprite at Chichiri Shopping Centre in Blantyre where the commission took off shelves expired meat products. Expired food products are dangerous and pose a risk to the health of consumers.

My appeal to the commission, Malawi Bureau of Standards, Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) and other stakeholders, including the consumers themselves, is to be vigilant and demand the best beyond the World Consumer Rights Day which dates back to 1962 when President John F. Kennedy of the United States of America addressed the US Congress and formally raised the issue of consumer rights.

Records show that JFK became the first ever world leader to raise issues of consumerism; hence, the consumer rights movement worldwide commemorates the day annually as a special platform to raise awareness for consumer rights, including demanding the protection and respect for the said rights.

This year’s theme is built on the 2017 theme Building a Digital World Consumers Can Trust.

Malawian service providers should be commended for initiatives towards a digital or cashless society. Moving forward, though, they need to improve on delivery to give and guarantee consumers a platform devoid of inconveniences. With improvements, Malawi can create “a digital world consumers can trust’.

When all is said and done, consumers should be given the protection they deserve both online and offline. They provide the market and are the reason corporate exist. Remember, they say a customer is a king (and queen).

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