Crusoe Osagie writes on the disregard of Nigerian consumers by product manufacturers, traders and service providers, and on how technology giants Apple may reconfigure the market’s attitude to paying customers in the coming months
Buyers without Rights
Walk into a shop in the Alaba International Market in Lagos, enter an electronics shop, look around and pick the appliance you want then go ahead and pay for it. Once you turn around and walk out of that shop you are stuck with the product.
If an hour later you discover that you might have bought a defective item and you return to the shop to meet the same trader who sold the item to you, you will have to raise hell and get into a literal fist fight to even have the defective product replaced.
If what you actually want is for your money to be returned, then you have to call in a truck load of policemen and you may still not get you money back. This tale typifies the daily struggle of the Nigerian consumer. He is unappreciated, exploited and abused.
Shylock Service Providers
Although the Director General of the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), Dr. Joseph Odumodu, has said he is working with the Consumer Protection Council to address some of these issues, the contempt for paying customers thrives unabated.
This disregard for the right of the consumer cuts across all segments of the Nigerian economy from product suppliers to service providers.
A good example in the Banking industry is Guaranty Trust Bank, which has forced all its customers to get ATM cards at the cost of N1,050 per card, which is deducted from the customer’s account immediately the card is applied for, even though the card is actually supplied after about two weeks.
As a way of forcing its customers to use their ATM cards and decongest its banking halls, GTBank also imposes a N100 surcharge on any withdrawal over the counter that is less than N40,000.
Painfully, if a customer goes to a GTBank branch with a broken-down ATM and is forced to withdraw an amount less than N40,000 across the counter, the bank still surcharges that person N100, despite the fact that it wasn’t the customer’s fault that he/she could not use the defective ATM at that branch. This is the height of customer abuse.
Negligible Return Policy
Back to tangible products; apart from the few contemporary retail outlets such as Shoprite, Park n Shop, Cash ‘n’ Carry, Mega Plaza and the like, which only serve less than 10 per cent of the consumer market no other product suppliers and retailer in Nigeria have reliable return policies.
That this unfortunate situation adversely affects the consumer is bad enough but worse still is the fact that the unavailability of a trusted return policy actually acts to stifle the growth of the markets and the contribution of domestic trade to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Apple Warranty Example
Except for a few reputable retail outlets in the country, most stores have a bold message plastered on their walls and receipts, proclaiming that products sales are final; no exchange, no refunds.
The customer service and products support plus warranty that is the way of life in Europe and Americas is hardly available in this market. This is obviously due to the fact that the Nigerian market is more of a sellers’ market and is not consumer driven. The consumer is not the king, at least not yet in this market.
But trading is now showing marginal signs of change as more big brands enter Nigeria and intensify competition. Many global brands previously skeptical of Nigeria due to the nation’s infrastructure challenges have begun to see immense potential in the market.
With a population of about 160 million people, Nigeria is the market to beat. Minister of Trade and Investment, Mr. Olusegun Aganga, captured it aptly when he said, “the question is not why to invest in Nigeria but when to and how to.”
Understanding Nigeria’s amazing potential, Apple, probably the world’s most successful company with a turnover of over $108 billion, has now officially entered Nigeria, through Core Group Africa.
At its current rate of growth and with its revolutionary array of products, Apple is being predicted to emerge the world’s first trillion dollar company in years to come. The company believes Nigeria should be a huge part of that equation.
Intelligently, this global industrial and technological power house is planning to change the consumer and industrial landscape in Nigeria using an unprecedented warranty and product guarantee initiative.
Apple has now made a formal entry into the country and has immediately put in place a two-year product warrantee scheme; never seen in the Nigeria market milieu.
Core Group Africa, the Value Added Distributor (VAD) for Apple in Nigeria, officially launched the iPad locally, a few months ago as part of a global roll out, from the starting price of just N105,000. This is the first time Apple is making its products available through the official Apple channels and resellers in Nigeria.
Core Group Africa is including an unbelievable benefit for Nigerian customers for the first time ever; an additional year warranty free of charge. The extra year of warranty extends the standard warranty to two years per for new iPads that are sold through Apple Authorised Resellers.
In order to qualify, customers only need to provide proof of purchase from an Apple Authorised Reseller from the official launch date and register their iPad on www.isocietynigeria.com.
In addition to the two years warranty support, there are other benefits in purchasing from an Apple Authorised Reseller. Nigerian customers will have peace of mind that if repair issues arise during the warranty term, the product will be repaired or replaced by an Apple Authorised Repair Centre and they will have access to the required level of support that is mandatory for Apple Authorised Resellers.
Apple Authorised Resellers include iConnect are at the Palms, Lekki in Lagos; Superior Equipment - The Orchard at the Civic Centre in Lagos; Cross Energy, Flag Place in Abuja; and iMEED Store, Rivers House, Central Business Area of Abuja. A new state-of-the-art Apple store is also expected to be open soon.
Fake products and grey products have been a long standing problem in Nigeria and indeed the entire African continent. The big attraction for consumers usually is the price factor. Counterfeits are usually unbelievably cheaper than the originals.
But consumers pay a bigger price in the long run when the products fail to perform. Grey products on the other hand are not usually counterfeit but because they come in through unofficial channels, they do not come with service back-ups and warranty.
Importers of grey products also do not usually pay full custom duties and Government taxes. This also has a negative effect on the economy. Big name brands such as Apple, Nike, Nokia and many others are the usual targets for counterfeits or the grey market.
Apple is likely to overcome this by appointing more authorised resellers in Nigeria and opening more outlets, to increase supply and products availability. It recently announced that over 15 billion apps have been downloaded from its revolutionary App store, by more than 200 million iPhone, iPad and iPod users around the world including Nigeria.
The new iPad, which was also officially launched in Nigeria by Core Group Africa, redefines the category which Apple created a few years ago, delivering the most amazing experience people have ever had with technology.
It has the highest resolution display ever seen on a mobile device with 3.1 million pixels, giving razor sharp details on texts, videos and photos. It also supports dictation. Instead of typing, one simply taps the microphone on the key board and says what he wants. The new iPad listens and converts the words instantly into text.
Core Group Africa had been earlier appointed Apple’s Authorised Resellers to ensure the product is available through official channel partners. They are: iConnect; The Orchard; Meed Networks and Cross Energy Supply Authorised Resellers.
Executive Director for Apple Core Group Africa, Rutger-Jan Van Spaandonk, earlier remarked that, “Nigerians are now able to say with confidence that their iPads have been bought through the official distribution channels. We want customers to have the best Apple experience possible and to be able to take advantage of the benefits of purchasing their iPad from an Apple Authorised Resellers.
“It is in the best interest of Nigerian consumers to buy from the official distribution channel so that they can take advantage also of the two years warrantee. The warrantee is a shield that protects official buyers. If repair issues arise during the warranty term, the product will be replaced locally.
“To get this two years warrantee in case the product develops a fault within two years, all the customer has to do is to show the proof of purchase and must have completed a simple registration form on the isociety Nigeria website”, he added.
With increasing globalisation and the growing strategic importance of Nigeria as a key Emerging Market, more and more companies are likely to come into Nigeria. More international brands, as well as local Nigerian companies need to step up their customer support package in the near future and follow the Apple example in offering genuine and extended warrantee.
This will be a positive development for the Nigerian industrial landscape. The responsibility of consumers is to buy from authorised sellers and resist the attraction of cheaper counterfeits or products from unofficial outlets.