13 November 2018

Uganda: Are Service Regulators Part of the Consumers Challenge in Uganda?

opinion

In the recent past, both traditional and new media, has been awash with leading headlines of the Ugandan market being flooded with fake and counterfeit goods in millions. These are both imported and locally produced with little or no supervision at all.

Upon the introduction of the Buy Uganda Build Uganda (BUBU) policy two years ago, many Ugandan consumers had hoped that there shall be the consumption quality and health products, but it has come to pass with reports from the regulators and consumers castigating the quality of goods on the market.

In the past six months, the regulator - Uganda National Bureau os Standards (UNBS) has been at it conducting product seizers of fake and substandard goods in down town Kampala and in major business hubs countrywide, but little seems to be changing as the traders are becoming very canning each passing day to beat the system and avoid their goods being confiscated.

The consumers today do buy what's on the market but with virtually most products looking attractive though with some symbolism of imitation from the genuine goods there is no choice to choose from. Good ranging from furniture to consumables Uganda is now a big supermarket with no supervisor to oversee the quality of such.

Lately, social media has had a hot exchange between the users if the known brands like Bata still have quality and genuine goods the answer is very know between you and me as a consumer, for instance a post on Facebook read "bought men shoes worth 180,000, but after three months, the shoe sol peeled off; in the last 50 years or so, millions of Ugandan consumers have known this brand as the best footwear, but if such doubts start to emerge then the BUBU policy may not achieve its targets come 2020." As we approach the Christmas festive season, hundreds of traders are taking advantage of the consumers' appetite to buy for the celebrations due to their product ignorance.

As the proposed MDAs mergers and disbandment take off, consumers need to be protected and informed, but with no legal framework which can guarantee their healthy and safety from any harmful goods and services either local or foreign, consuming fakes shall persist.

For years, regulators such as UNBS, Uganda Communication Commission, National Drug Authority, Uganda Revenue Authority, Electricity Regulatory Authority, Transport Licensing Board, Bank of Uganda, National Water and sewage Corporation, and National Council of Higher Education, among others, have been operating as per their statutory frameworks, but consumers cannot seek redress due to the absence of a Consumer Protection Law, hence those who can afford resort to courts that are very lengthy and expensive to the common man.

Though some consumer activists and civil society have tried to create awareness to the public about their consumer rights, the lack of a legal framework makes it hard for any forward movement and ultimate compensation, in addition to seeking any medical facilitation hence comprising the consumers safety and healthy.

Over time, key stakeholders have been calling on the concerned policy makers to make sure that our consumer rights are protected and that there is natural justice in case of jury or any health effects, all what we want is the Trade ministry and Parliament to expedite the passing and enactment of the long awaited Consumer Protection Bill, which has been on the shelves for the last 17 years.

With forth and back indecisions by the Executive and Legislature thereby making it hard for the Judiciary to offer fair and equitable justice to the consumers affected and other victims, who have consumed or used substandard goods and services. This is a key negative factor in the country's entrance into the global commodity market and its road map to middle income status 2040.

Mr Kiapi is a consumer activist - The

Commonwealth Association-Uganda

[email protected]

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