MASERU — The days of selling expired food products and other unethical practices are over.
The long-awaited consumer protection policy was launched at a gala dinner held by the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Cooperatives and Marketing (MTICM) last week.
The launch also marked the beginning of consumer education campaign programmes aimed at informing the public about consumer rights.
Trade Minister Sek’hulumi Ntsoaole told the gathering that the handling of disputes concerning customer service had been shambolic in the past because they were dealt with under several different ministries.
Ntsoaole said as a member of the international consumer protection organisation, Lesotho advocates eight consumer rights, including education and empowerment of consumers about their rights.
“The Ministry of Trade and Industry, Cooperatives and Marketing intends to ensure through our education campaigns, that Basotho consumers fully understand their rights,” said Ntsoaole.
He said the theme “our money, our rights” was not only in line with the international 2013 theme of “Consumer Justice Now” but it also reflected that the customer is indeed king.
A nationwide education campaign to inform consumers and service providers about their rights and responsibilities was rolled out by the trade ministry, in partnership with Invest in Lesotho.
“We anticipate that the campaign will yield positive results for all parties involved; consumers and suppliers,” Ntsoale said.
“Hopefully, there will be warm relations between local suppliers and consumers and therefore less disputes reported at the ministry,” he added.
Ntsoale further called on cabinet ministers, the public and private sector to assist the ministry in disseminating information about the consumer protection policy.
The policy, according to Moahloli Mphaka, the Trade Ministry’s Principal Secretary, is meant to protect consumers from unfair trade practices that impact negatively on health, safety and any other economic interests.
Mphaka said the policy sets out minimum quality specifications, fosters effective competition and enables confident participation of consumers and suppliers in fair trade.
At the same occasion, speaking on behalf of Shoprite Group of Companies retail’s department, Pitso Melao said Shoprite, being the largest supermarket chain in Africa, embraces the consumer protection initiative adding that Shoprite already subscribes to the South Africa Consumer Protection Act and will therefore have no problem abiding by the consumer protection policy.
“Shoprite believes that no customer should leave our stores unhappy. Our customers have a legal right to demand excellent service, be treated with respect and receive satisfactory and friendly service,” said Melao.
The Chinese Business Association also pledged to abide by the consumer protection policy, vowing to prioritise product shelf life, by taking note of expiry dates and removing old products when new stock comes in.
Meanwhile, MTICM rolled out a public outreach initiative termed U Mongaka (You Are My Boss) as part of the consumer education campaign.
U Mongaka Day will be observed every Wednesday for an indefinite period with the business sector being encouraged to wear branded U Mongaka merchandise to show commitment to observing consumer rights.