By Emeka Anaeto, Business Editor
Against the backdrop of in-cessant public outcry, the Consumer Protection Commission, CPC, is set to come after banks over excess services charges. Also the Commission is set to intervene on behalf of electricity consumers over estimated billings and sundry services failures perpetrated by electricity distribution companies, Discos.
The new Director General of the Commission, Mr. Babatunde Irukera, who disclosed this in Lagos yesterday, said it has already begun consensus building with regulators and stakeholders in financial sector with a view to intervening on behalf of consumers of banking services and arrest the situation in excessive bank charges and other irregularities.
In a chat with Vanguard on the engagements with banking sector operators and regulators he stated: “We are in a very close discussion with them, the consumer department of the Central Bank, the payment department of the Central Bank in respect to electronic payments. We are moving towards finalizing a broader memorandum of understanding we had before, and considering how to mutually address some of the issues we have in the financial sector especially bank charges and all those types of wrong doings.”
On when CPC’s intervention action would commence, he stated: “Very soon. We have worked at this for several months and I think something is very imminent. I would say that no later than sometime early in the coming year.”
This, according to him, is just one of the many initiatives he intends to execute in order to engender a reformed market for the society while modifying behaviours of products and services providers as well as the consumers in a just and fair exchange of value.
Other initiatives, according to him, would be focused on implementing a competition law that would ensure, amongst other things, that no group of business owners come together as a union for the purpose of fixing products or services prices.
In this connection, he stated: The law does not prohibit trade associations, what the law prohibits is they discussing prices at their meetings. What the law says is that let the competition be fair, let prices be fair. It is good for the business and it is good for the consumers because consumers enjoy the best prices, and businesses are more innovative. And then it doesn’t create trade barriers for others that want to come into the business.”
He also informed that the new CPC would intervene in the electricity services where the consumers appear to have many complaints, mainly on billing, with a view to ensuring that they get services they paid for and only pay for true value of services they receive.
Irukera also said a patients’ bill of rights is underway for the purpose of changing behaviours of hospitals and other health services providers in the country.
The bill, according to him, would be publicized and posted in healthcare offices for the consumers of the services to be aware of their rights and how to enforce them.
To ensure proper implementation and enforcement of all the initiatives for consumer protection, Irukera said the new CPC would be working with other regulators to inject consumer protection elements in their regulatory services delivery.
Moreover, he informed that consumer complaints resolution automation was underway for all products and services industries under which all organisations involved in providing such products or services are expected to plug in and effectively resolve consumer complaints as they come. He further stated that a failure on the part of any company in this auto-resolution platform would lead to direct intervention of the CPC which may be detrimental to the failing company.