Artificial price hike and hoarding goods and services taking advantage of special circumstances like annual festivities is becoming common phenomenon in Ethiopia.
As the society is almost always given hard time and provided with goods and services with unburnable prices, setting up consumers' association is a timely and quite indispensable move.
What does recurrently read in the business arena and may be properly applied or merely ignored is, "Consumer is King". What does it mean?
The concept reflects a customer who goes to business center to be served needs to be given a service accompanied with an inviting smile, a friendly approach and a reasonable price as much as possible.
Yes, a consumer is the one who assumes to be treated like a King as they bring business to the seller. If this is so, consumers need to have well organized associations, which can amalgamate them and help seek relief with their procuring issues.
However, in some situations especially when companies or business centers think that they are exclusive owners of the goods or services and distributors too, the saying goes, and 'Customer is king' turns upside down.
There are no sellers who wish to fulfill all of the consumer's demands, and cannot afford to estrange consumers with bad service or products. Consumers have tools at their disposal such as complaints, associations to get their voice loud and the like.
"There are some greedy businessmen who would like to amass undeserved profit at the expense of the mass via either hoarding goods or services or getting prices skyrocketed taking advantage of festivities or social occasions," said Abebe Alemu, a consumer association representative.
It is undeniable fact that consumers, those who buy the products, want to pay the lowest price while the supplier attempts to maximize their profits. These paradoxical business sighs have to come to an equilibrium point taking the status of consumers and the optimal profit, not extremely inflated, of suppliers into account.
Basically, customers' confidence can be won via fulfilling the factors on the side of the supplier such as availability of competing goods or services, keeping quality of the product, availability of financing and maintaining the perceived availability of a good or service. All these parameters can be mad real entertaining the works of consumers' associations.
Rigorously citing the significance of consumers' associations, Abebe said whenever a consumer fails to raise their voice of complaints regarding price hike or inflated formations, they point their fingers towards the administration, but the wrong doer is the official at the lowest level.
By rendering this service to the consumers, the consumers get a feeling that they are not alone in their struggle.
He further said that the consumers' associations play a significant role in eliminating the evils of adulteration, hoarding, and under-weight selling, among others.
Whenever there is unnecessary rise in the prices of certain things, the consumers' associations raise a voice of protest against it on behalf of the general public.
Abebe also said that many a times forums are arranged to bring awareness among the consumers against spurious and adulterated products. Nowadays consumer organizations are playing a major role in encouraging their members to raise their voice against faulty and inferior products, and erroneously used beam balances.
Selam Biresaw, a customer whom this writer encountered while purchasing goods at certain consumers center said, "The presence of customers association is quite helpful for all of us as it provided the people with reasonable prices and unadulterated items."
She also added that they fight against adulteration in food products, ill effects of medicines and other odd moves against the wellbeing of the society with a view to safeguarding the safety of consumers. Thanks to them, they are always working towards consumer protection and care.
"We, customers, want prompt service. Every one of us doesn't want to be kept cluttered and wrongly treated. Hence, associations of consumers have to work and understand that customers' queries are being addressed fully and quickly," she said.
Recognizing the fact that the levels of trade and economic development in Ethiopia over the past five or so years have been at a promising level, all concerned bodies are moving in unison to realize the smooth market flow and balance of trade via pinpointing the major problems along that line.
"When we know where improvement is needed, we can then use a number of mechanisms to bridge the gap between where customers are now and where they want to be as well as show them the right market access and how to access it," he added.
According to Abebe, customer service communications through their associations reduce the need to attend every customer conversation, as they acquittal their agents to focus on more complex issues instead of spending too much time addressing a number of members.
Suppliers have to focus on marketing as it means educating customers on what is great about a variety of products and services, pushing them towards purchasing, too, said Abebe.
As leant from him, the presence of consumers' associations is invaluable for assuring that customers are provided with items keeping quality and with the required quantity following more than just selling fashion. "Let them know we are there to help them in every possible way."
"If institutional framework is set for the defense of the consumer, it can serve two distinct purposes: the enforcement of existing regulation on the one hand, and consultative activities for future regulatory on the other," added Abebe.
A consumer protection regulator should consider all the necessary means to guarantee the independence and integrity of consumer protection institutions. Nonconformity should also be assured with regard to suppliers, and also from the government itself and other public institutions.
Yes, consumer protection is a term given to a rehearsal wherein we need to protect the consumer from the unfair practice, educating them about their rights and responsibilities and also redressing their grievances.
Consumers need to be taken care of and they should know how to exercise their rights and how to hunt for reliefs.
Obviously consumer is being exploited through the ways of adulteration, false practice, fake weights, and incomplete information on parceled products. For instance, there are many products that claim to make a fair or reduce weight but when we use the products it does not provide what is promised.
As experience would have it, most customers have developed trust in consumer associations as they repeatedly contact suppliers, business entity and or a market centers where representation of the association is given as per their locality preference. This would play a central role in determining the item and amount they need.
The great thing is that consumers will not encounter unbearable price, low standard goods and services as well as mistreatment since the association aims at protecting them from such a tumultuous scenario.