FCCPA Protect Nigerians Citizen- It introduces a consolidated legal regime for competition in Nigeria. The FCCPA establishes the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (the Commission) which will take over the activities of the Consumer Protection Council.
Prior to the Observers times publication, the enactment of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act (FCCPA) in January 2019, Nigerians continued to bemoan the non-existence of comprehensive consumer protection legislation in the country.
The advent of the FCCPA appears to have changed that narrative. The law seeks to promote and maintain competitive markets, protect consumers’ interests and welfare, as well as facilitate access to a wider variety of quality products, among others.
Having had the law in place for eighteen months, the question now is how well is it being applied to safeguard the interest, safety and welfare of Nigerian consumers? The answer to this poser is not far-fetched. Recent activities of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC), which is the body responsible for the day to day administration of the FCCPA, underscore the potency and efficacy of the law.
FCCPA Protect Nigerians Citizen
For instance, in the wake of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the FCCPC issued several statements cautioning against price gouging and the manipulation of supplies in a manner that distorts the market or temporarily restricts availability in order to unreasonably, unfairly and arbitrarily increase prices on account of the pandemic.
Precisely, on February 28, 2020 the Commission expressed concern that certain suppliers and retailers were taking undue advantage of citizens and engaging in unconscionable trade practices with respect to basic safety and protective apparel such as face masks and latex gloves, as well as personal hygiene products like sanitisers and anti-bacterial wipes, because the products were relevant and necessary in preventing infection or spread of COVID-19.
According to the Commission, “Abusing citizens’ sensitivity, apprehension, anxiety and vulnerability, especially during emergencies that could adversely affect national security is a violation of law.
Specifically, S. 17(s) of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act (FCCPA) prohibits ‘obnoxious trade practices’, or the ‘unscrupulous exploitation of consumers.’ … Any conspiracy, combination, agreement or arrangement to unduly limit or manipulate supply in order to unreasonably enhance price or otherwise restrain competition is a criminal offence under S.108(1)(b) and (c) FCCPA.
Any exercise or exploitation of undue pressure in selling or the sale of goods or services, or price manipulation between displayed, and selling price are also serious violations of the FCCPA under Sections 115(3) and 124(1). …
Considering the circumstances and the vital national interest/security this illegal conduct undermines, the Commission intends to strongly enforce the full letter of the law, including the fullest extent of penalties associated with this conduct.”
True to its words, it was not long after cautioning businesses to desist from the aforementioned acts that the Commission arraigned four popular pharmacies and supermarkets at the Federal High Court in Abuja over allegations of price gouging. These included H-Medix, Faxx Stores, Ebeano Supermarket and Bakan-Gizo Pharmacy. Babatunde Irukera, the chief executive officer of the Commission, who personally led the Commission’s prosecuting team, explained that the charges against the defendants were to deter outrageously increasing gouging.
In furtherance of its COVID-19 response programme, the Commission also clamped down on a number of other businesses for stocking expired and or expiring products, including other infractions of the FCCPA.
However, while pursuing its COVID-19 tasks, the FCCPC did not abandon its routine activities. As such, on April 14, 2020, the Commission announced that, pursuant to Sections 17(s), (t), (x), (y); 18, 32, 123-125; 127-130 FCCPA, it had commenced investigation of failed elective cosmetic surgical procedures by Dr. Anu Adepoju and other operatives of Med Contour Services Limited.
The Commission explained that this was based on complaints and dissatisfaction with respect to certain elective/cosmetic surgical procedures carried out by Med Contour, including allegations that Med Contour engages in conduct that is considered otherwise unprofessional, misleading, potentially injurious and resulting in possible fatalities.
Accordingly, FCCPC, on April 15, 2020 sealed Med Contour Services Limited “in an abundance of caution and consumer safety, pending further inquiry.”
Broadly, the key objectives of the FCCPA include: promoting and maintaining a competitive market in Nigeria; promoting economic efficiency; protecting consumer interests and welfare; prohibiting restrictive and unfair business practices; and ensuring the development of the Nigerian economy.
In line with its objectives, the provisions of the FCCPA have an overriding effect on other regulations dealing with competition and consumer protection matters in Nigeria (Section 104 of the FCCPA)