CUTS has expressed concern on reports that some traders are intentionally misrepresenting various versions of hand wash and detergents as hand sanitizer and chlorine due to increased demand for the two commodities.
In a statement, Wednesday, Consumer Unity and Trust Society centre coordinator Chenai Mukumba stated that the trend was an infringement of Section 47 of the Competition and Consumer Protection (CCPC) Act and that those found wanting would be liable for a fine.
“In light of the cholera outbreak, due to the increased demand for chlorine and hand sanitizer the country is currently suffering from a shortage of both goods. For those who are able to access these products we have seen an increase in the price. This is indeed due to the basic tenets of demand and supply however in light of the nature of this disease we are urging retailers to be understanding of the times. We therefore encourage retailers to refrain from seeking to profit from the increased demand for these products as high prices most negatively affect low income consumers who are often those who are in most need of these products,” Mukumba stated.
“We therefore commend local producers who have increased their production of goods such as hand sanitizer and chlorine in an effort to meet the increased demand. To the extent that local supply cannot meet the demand, we also urge the government to facilitate the importation of these products to allow consumers to access them at reasonable prices. In addition to the above issues, another concern that has been brought to our attention is that there have been claims that due to the increased demand, there are a number of sellers that are seeking to benefit from this and are intentionally misrepresenting their products to consumers. They are selling various versions of hand wash and detergents claiming that they are hand sanitizer and chlorine when in actual fact they are not. If this is indeed the case, we condemn such behavior and wish to inform those retailers that they are in infringement of Section 47 of the Competition and Consumer Protection Act and will be liable for a fine if they are found wanting.”
Mukumba further advised consumers to be vigilant in their purchasing decisions by buying products from known and well-respected brands that have undergone certification processes.
“In the same vein, we urge consumers to be vigilant in their purchasing decisions and seek to buy products from known and well-respected brands that have undergone the certification process. If indeed they come across retailers that are misleading consumers, we encourage consumers to immediately inform the CCPC and/or CUTS at email@example.com.”
Meanwhile, Mukumba sympathised with street vendors who have been affected by the shutting down of markets in Lusaka and other towns.
“We would like to note that in addition to the vendors that have been affected by the shutting down of markets, this has also affected particularly low-income consumers for whom local markets are their primary source of food products. The shutting down of these local markets has therefore also affected the city’s local food systems. We therefore urge the government to expedite the finding a long term solution to the current issue of local vendors. In these times we urge all consumers to be vigilant due to the recent cholera outbreak. It is important that consumers play their role as we seek to mitigate the impacts of the disease. We therefore urge consumers to remain updated with regards to the locations where it has been reported to have been detected; and further to this, take the necessary precautions in their purchasing decisions in order to minimise the risk of contracting the disease,” stated Mukumba.