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Consumer Policy in final stages

Mon, 5 September 2016 15:53
by Donald Matthys
News Flash

The era where Namibians have to be taken advantage of by retailers that sell faulty or substandard products to the detriment of the consumer is nigh as Government will soon introduce a comprehensive consumer protection law.
The consumer policy has been necessitated by need to cushion Namibians from the financial burden created by the mismatch between the soaring standard of living and their earnings, which initially forces them to borrow money.
A credit bureau responsible red flagging bad debtors,  Compuscan’s data reflects that out of the 472 396 consumer accounts listed on their database, 1.9%, face legal action to honour their dues.
 Although the policy is still in its consultative phase the Minister of Finance Calle Schlettwein who initiated the process during his days as Minister of Trade confirmed that his counterpart at the Ministry of Trade and SME Development Immanuel Ngatjizeko is pushing forward with the plan.
 “The Ministry of Trade and Industry is ceased with the developing and drafting of the Consumer Protection Bill. I understand it is in its final stage,” Schlettwein said.
Research has also shown that Namibia’s lack of a consumer protection policy has created loopholes affecting consumers in instances where they denied their right to return unsatisfying purchases by especially by Chinese owned business that have a questionable no return no refund policy.
Currently consumers only have the outdated Credit Agreements Act 75 of 1980 to safeguard their interests from exploitation. Section 28 of that Act provides for a consumer’s right to privacy, but there is no provision that governs the procedure to be followed for when a consumer defaults on payment or when a credit grantor blacklists a consumer. The Bill would create mechanisms where consumer complaints and concerns should be addressed.
Renowned Economist Eric Van Zyl from IJG Securities told The Villager that the challenge will come in the implementation phase of the policy and encouraged the crafters to make the policy relevant to the Namibian situation.
“I think that consumer protection is definitely a positive policy step to take and worth spending time on. My biggest concern with formulating new policy is in the way that it is drafted. Time should be taken and lessons should be learnt from the implementation of these policies in the rest of the world. There is a wealth of information available about consumer protection and its successful implementation that can be drawn on,” Economic Analyst, Eric Van Zyl from IJG Securities told The Villager.
He added that, “There are many examples of consumer protection policies benefitting economies when implemented correctly. The idea behind consumer protection is that it builds trust between consumers and producers.
“When consumers trust producers they consume more easily, knowing what they are getting is ‘what it says on the box’. The less competitive an industry, the more benefit there is to be had from consumer protection. In our small economy there is a need for consumer protection as there is often less competition than in more developed markets.”
Compuscan’s, Sales Manager Corne Van Niekerk encouraged Namibian consumers to be in control of their debt.
  “Many consumers might automatically assume that credit is bad or that it gets them into trouble, but the truth is that credit has the power to open the door to opportunity- it allows one to purchase a vehicle, invest in a home or start up a business. The problem with credit arises when consumers don’t manage their debt responsibly,” he said.
He also added that, “About 53% from the total number of accounts is made up of debt that was made for Vehicle Asset Finance (loans for cars, etc.) while the second highest number of loans recorded on the database that was studied, following the above-mentioned loans were credit cards (21%), followed by fixed-term (short-term) loans (14%). The number of these three account types combined made up 88% of all accounts considered.
“At Compuscan, we place special emphasis on ensuring that our data is up to date. This allows us to calculate a consumer’s credit score, providing a true reflection of the consumer’s ability to manage their debt. This not only assists credit providers in making informed decisions about whether or not to extend credit to a consumer, or how much, but it also protects the consumer from over-extending themselves. This is why it is important for consumers to regularly check their credit reports to ensure that they are managing their finances wisely,” Van Niekerk said.