Senator Iroegbu in Abuja
The Consumer Protection Council (CPC) and the Association of Food, Beverage and Tobacco Employers (AFBTE), have in a move to provide succour to aggrieved consumers of beverages and food, agreed to raise a technical committee to develop a mutually acceptable compensation code to address consumer abuse in the sector.
The decision to set up the technical committee was taken during a courtesy call of the association on the new Director General of CPC, Mr. Tunde Irukera, at the Councilâ€™s headquarters in Abuja.
Irukera, while commenting on the decision, observed that the code would modify the attitude and responses of the 100 industries that are members of the association to complaints of aggrieved consumers in the sector.
He hinted that â€œthe reality is that we have an aggressive consumer protection agency which frankly we must have, regardless of whatever approach one must take to protect the consumer and we have a responsibility to protect the consumer, to the extent of coming up with an approach that is in the interest of those consumers.
â€œSo having to use a compensation policy as an example, if a consumer were to complain about a product, claiming that it made him ill, we could obviously come together and work with an acceptable methodology that would be fairer and more predictable across the board, rather than when a complaint occurs and gets out of hand… if we work together, we can come up with something that would be acceptable across the board and you can go and percolate it as a kind of voluntary guide, and whoever doesnâ€™t want to abide by it, thatâ€™s okay, but at least we should have something that we can work with. And in that regard we will be happy to work with you on mutually acceptable implementations and come up with key issues in respect to consumer protectionâ€ he said.
The CPC boss said the Council would be willing to collaborate effectively with the association because of its widespread influence in almost every home.
â€œI have found that professional and trade associations like this, when they are very strong, are perhaps the best partners because you can affect consumers far more when you come to some understanding with the association and they go back to enforce it within themselves than dealing with each member, â€ he noted.
Irukera while asserting that he would always respect individual brands and their prerogative to protect themselves, emphasised that â€œintegrity of your brand is also in the interest of Consumer Protection Council because anything that affects the integrity of your brand also affects consumer confidence.
â€œCertainly, one thing the Council will want to promote is consumer confidence. We want consumers to be confident of choices they make and the products they consume. It will be helpful also when there are issues to work on to recognise that we are on the same page with respect to brand confidence. That flows from the point I want to make with respect to fake products, we can approach that in a collaborative way in the sense that we would like to protect the integrity of your brand so that we are sure consumers are getting the right productsâ€, he added.
On the importance of the association, Irukera observed: â€œIf there is any association that its members are in every home as early as 4am, it is your association. If there is an industry that affects humanity more than any other, it is yours. Every single person in the country is eating or drinking something. So for that reason, I thought it is vital that I immediately prioritise meeting with your association. From a strategic stand-point and from a road-map or blueprint standpoint, your industry is number oneâ€.
He emphasised that regulatory work is more effective when there is collaboration, noting that â€œthe interesting thing about consumer protection is that both the operator and the regulator have the same focus, which is the consumerâ€ and that if the regulator and the operator have the same objective of making the consumer happier, â€œthen we are likely to always have a meeting ground than we have nowâ€.
Earlier, the AFBTEâ€™s President, Mr. Fred Chiazor, had appealed to the Councilâ€™s new director general to collaborate with the association with a view to getting faster and deeper enforcement of consumer protection regime in the sector.
According to him, â€œour major plea is that if there are issues that come up as time goes on, that we be notified immediately through our association. We want to help the CPC to succeed. We are usually very proactive and if there are areas you want us to work with you, we are ready to do that.
â€œCurrently in some agencies, we have a joint committee where we look into issues jointly because we donâ€™t believe in a police and criminal kind of relationship, and we are not saying we want to partner to make you overlook certain key things. No, we will do the right things, and thatâ€™s why we said we should come on this visit and tell you about ourselves most importantly, to welcome you on board and we are happy you are here and believe that itâ€™s like divine intervention and God keeping us all alive, we will see that this agency succeeds and does what its mandate is supposed to beâ€ Chiazor added.