In a move to provide more succour to aggrieved consumers of beverages and food, the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) and the Association of Food, Beverage and Tobacco Employers (AFBTE) on Wednesday agreed to raise a technical committee to develop a mutually acceptable compensation code to address consumer abuse in the sector.
The decision to set up the technical committee was taken during the courtesy call of the association on the new Director General of FCCPC, Babaunde Irukera, at the Council’s headquarters in Abuja.
Irukera, while commenting on the decision, observed that the code would modify the attitude and responses of the 100 industries that are members of the association to complaints of aggrieved consumers in the sector.
The director general hinted that “the reality is that we have an aggressive consumer protection agency which frankly we must have, regardless of whatever approach one must take to protect the consumer and we have a responsibility to protect the consumer, to the extent of coming up with an approach that is in the interest of those consumers.
“So having to use a compensation policy as an example, if a consumer were to complain about a product, claiming that it made him ill, we could obviously come together and work with an acceptable methodology that would be fairer and more predictable across the board, rather than when a complaint occurs and gets out of hand… if we work together, we can come up with something that would be acceptable across the board and you can go and percolate it as a kind of voluntary guide, and whoever doesn’t want to abide by it, that’s ok, but at least we should have something that we can work with. And in that regard we will be happy to work with you on mutually acceptable implementations and come up with key issues in respect to consumer protection” he said. The FCCPC’s director general said the Council would be willing to collaborate effectively with the association because of its widespread influence in almost every home, noting that “I have found that professional and trade associations like this, when they are very strong, are perhaps the best partners because you can affect consumers far more when you come to some understanding with the association and they go back to enforce it within themselves than dealing with each member”.
While asserting that he would always respect individual brands to protect themselves, he emphasised that “integrity of your brand is also in the interest of Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission because anything that affects the integrity of your brand also affects consumer confidence.
“Certainly, one thing the Council will want to promote is consumer confidence. We want consumers to be confident of choices they make and the products they consume. It will be helpful also when there are issues to work on to recognise that we are on the same page with respect to brand confidence. That flows from the point I want to make with respect to fake products, we can approach that in a collaborative way in the sense that we would like to protect the integrity of your brand so that we are sure consumers are getting the right products”, he added.
On the importance of the association, Irukera observed: “If there is any association that its members are in every home as early as 4am, it is your association. If there is an industry that affects humanity more than any other, it is yours. Every single person in the country is eating or drinking something. So for that reason, I thought it is vital that I immediately prioritise meeting with your association. From a strategic stand-point and from a road-map or blueprint standpoint, your industry is number one”.
He emphasised that regulatory work is more effective when there is collaboration, noting that “the interesting thing about consumer protection is that both the operator and the regulator have the same focus, which is the consumer” and that if the regulator and the operator have the same objective of making the consumer happier, “then we are likely to always have a meeting ground than we have now”.
Earlier, the AFBTE’s President, Mr. Fred Chiazor, had appealed to the Council’s new director general to collaborate with the association with a view to getting faster and deeper enforcement of consumer protection regime in the sector.
According to him, “our major plea is that if there are issues that come up as time goes on, that we be notified immediately through our association. We want to help the FCCPC to succeed. We are usually very proactive and if there are areas you want us to work with you, we are ready to do that.
“Currently in some agencies, we have a joint committee where we look into issues jointly because we don’t believe in a police and criminal kind of relationship, and we are not saying we want to partner to make you overlook certain key things. No, we will do the right things, and that’s why we said we should come on this visit and tell you about ourselves most importantly, to welcome you on board and we are happy you are here and believe that it’s like divine intervention and God keeping us all alive, we will see that this agency succeeds and does what its mandate is supposed to be” Chiazor added.