Zimbabwe Cracks Down on Expired, Underweight Goods in Market

Over a Thousand Businesses Charged for Consumer Protection Violations

by Adenike Adeodun

In Zimbabwe, the pervasive issue of consumer exploitation through the sale of expired and underweight goods has escalated, triggering a massive crackdown by the Industry and Commerce Ministry. Over a thousand businesses have been implicated and charged for contravening the Consumer Protection Act, spotlighting a crisis that affects both consumer safety and market integrity.

The Ministry’s response, led by Consumer Affairs Chief Director Douglas Runyowa, involves rigorous market surveillance and routine inspections that have unearthed numerous unethical practices among retailers and wholesalers nationwide. The transgressions range from selling underweight and expired goods to the distribution of unlicensed products that have not undergone health authority approvals. These practices not only cheat consumers but also pose significant health risks.

Runyowa reports that semi-formal shops, including makeshift tuckshops that have sprung up in central business districts, are among the worst offenders, with non-compliance levels soaring above 60%. These outlets often engage in selling smuggled and untested products, compounding the risks to public health and safety.

In an aggressive push to enforce compliance, the ministry conducted inspections across 5,104 products in May alone, focusing on weights and measurements. This led to the issuance of 11,030 penalties for non-compliant goods. Additionally, the Consumer Protection Commission performed 1,903 compliance checks, resulting in 691 businesses receiving compliance notices. More drastically, 1,309 businesses faced prosecution for selling expired products, highlighting the widespread nature of the problem.

The ministry has not limited its actions to penalties and prosecutions. It has also recalled expired products from the market and tackled the rejection of the newly introduced Zimbabwe Gold currency by some businesses. To enhance transparency and consumer awareness, 688 businesses received compliance notices for failing to display product prices in the local currency.

To deepen consumer awareness and empowerment, the government has translated the Consumer Protection Act into more than six indigenous languages, including Braille. This initiative aims to educate consumers about their rights and foster a more compliant and ethical business environment.

Runyowa emphasized the ministry’s comprehensive approach, which includes collaboration with businesses and manufacturers through their member organizations—from manufacturers to retailers and distributors—to ensure adherence to the law. He noted the implementation of over 100 consumer awareness programs across the provinces in the current quarter alone as part of these efforts.

This crackdown is a critical step towards rectifying the pervasive issue of market malpractice in Zimbabwe. It underscores the government’s commitment to safeguarding consumer interests and restoring integrity within the market space. However, the effectiveness of these measures will depend largely on the sustained enforcement of the law and the continuous education of both consumers and businesses about their rights and responsibilities. The ongoing challenge will be to maintain this momentum and ensure that the regulations adapt to the evolving market conditions, particularly in a digital and increasingly globalized marketplace.


Source: Newsday

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