Uganda: Bill to Protect Public On Fake Goods Long Overdue

editorial

The days of fake goods in Uganda seems to be numbered. According to the Uganda Law Reform Commission, a draft a Bill seeking to protect the vulnerable public from consuming fake products that are flooding the market is in offing (See Daily Monitor, Wednesday, May 22).

The Bill aims at placing liability on manufacturers, sellers and distributors of defective or unsafe products that may cause injury, damage or death to consumers.

Better late than never. The draft Bill couldn't have come at better time than now when Ugandan can best be described as a dumping ground for fake or counterfeit goods.

From clothes, electrical appliances, lotions and creams, automobiles, tyres, detergents, medicines and other medical supplies to even cement and vehicle spare parts, among others, sub-standard goods have a dominant presence on the market.

The draft Bill is premised on policy considerations that include the desire to achieve maximum protection for consumers or injured party, and promotion of public interest in discouraging the marketing of defective products that turnout to be a menace to the public.

It is, therefore, significant that this legislation is underway. The market in Uganda has reached or even overpassed a point where the quality of items people buy, use or consume doesn't matter much to them because they have limited or no alternatives.

While this Bill is long overdue, it should be pointed out that it is not just the lack/absence of a law that explains the flooding of fake goods on the market. Besides, legislations on their own do not serve their envisioned purpose if, for instance, there is laxity or even failure in enforcement. Some critics say Uganda already suffers from over legislation in several aspects, yet there is little or no dividends to show.

Most importantly, before legislating against counterfeits, have we established why Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS), a government agency assigned the responsibility of ensuring standards and quality of goods on the market has not succeeded in clearing them off the shelves? UNBS is supposed to certify all goods on the market, without which no item should stand on the shelves or stalls.

Besides, where is Uganda Revenue Authority (URA), a government agency, mandated to, among other things, monitor imports, in all this? Put another way, how do fake goods find their way into the country without clearance by URA?

Until we are able to provide answers to these questions, the fake goods challenge will continue to trouble us a little longer.

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