The move by Government to enact a law that protects consumers from arbitrary price hikes is laudable. The Consumer Protection Bill that will soon be introduced to Parliament for fast-track enactment, makes it illegal for retailers to remove price tags from shop shelves, bars retailers and manufacturers from electronic marketing of goods without the consent of the owner of the gadget, and bars unjustified arbitrary price hikes.
The Bill also makes it illegal for retailers to force consumers to spend a certain amount of money shopping other goods as a precondition to buy a scarce commodity.
It is critically important that over and above this, the new law will give the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe, for the first time, teeth to bite. The CCZ will now be able to impose punitive deterrent fines, while the Government and Council will be able to cancel operating licences.
In the past, CCZ had a mere window dressing function. Well, that CCZ will now have powers is progressive.
Suffice to say, we seem to have a business community that does not understand the difference between making profit and profiteering. The basic principle of business is serving the consumer and making profit. It is not killing the consumer through profiteering. It is a true observation that profiteering kills the business eventually.
What is important is that the move to enact the law comes after unjustified price hikes by retailers and some manufacturers in the past few weeks which have seen the ordinary Zimbabwean disenfranchised from buying basic commodities.
Manufacturers and consumers who have been dabbling in bad business practice should not cry foul and neither should they expect the Government to fold its hands while they fleece the consumers.
Good business practices are a joy for all and bad business practices like we saw in the past few weeks, attract interventions. They attract punitive measures.
Suffice to say that Zimbabweans in their broad totality should also act responsibly if we are to thwart the madness the country has witnessed over the years.
Honestly, we cannot have a country where the business community behaves as if it is a free for all. We cannot have a business community which does not have ethics. We cannot have a business community with a dearth of nationalism.
Progressive capitalism is based on nationalism. Progressive capitalism and business practice understand the national thread and national ethics. Government should not be doing this, but is it now forced to act because the retailers and manufacturers have failed the consumer.