In compliance with constitutional provisions under Article 35, Clause 2, for which the state is obliged to “protect and safeguard…… and shall seek the wellbeing of all her citizens,” the caretaker Minister for Trade and Industry, Samuel A. Jinpaor, hinted at government’s intention to present to Parliament Consumer Protection Bill in no time.
In a Policy Statement on Consumer Protection in Ghana presented to Parliament on Wednesday, Mr. Jinpaor said, as a respected member of the international community, “we are enjoined by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) to institute a functional consumer protection regime to protect consumers, as well as enshrine their rights in the marketplace.”
He said this will fulfil obligations that the government, under the leadership of President Akufo-Addo, “is working rigorously to ensure the passage of a Consumer Protection Law. I am happy to announce, Mr. Speaker, that in the coming days, I will be signing a Consumer Protection Bill, which will be laid before Cabinet for its consideration and approval, and, subsequently, for the consideration for this august House.”
He said the Ministry of Trade and Industry has worked hard in getting the Bill this far and the overarching object of the bill is to protect, secure, and defend the rights of consumers, through a structured institutional mechanism and legal framework, that will ensure that consumers play a significant role in keeping erring businesses in check, promote competition, and ensure regional integration through digital trade and e-commerce.
The Minister noted, “the days when people depended on what they produced are long gone. Today, everyone depends, to some extent, on goods and services provided by others. The market dependence of consumers has increased considerably, making it imperative for us to protect consumer rights. With the coming into force of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), and as host of the AfCFTA Secretariat, consumer protection law is more important now than ever. The Government of President Akufo-Addo is fully committed to the passage of this law. It is my hope that when the time eventually comes, after the Bill has passed through the scrutiny of the eagle-eyed Cabinet of President Akufo-Addo, this august House will fully support the Government to pass this very consequential legislation.”
Mr. Speaker, I thank you sincerely for the opportunity to make this all-important policy statement, as Caretaker Minister for the Ministry of Trade and Industry, on behalf of the Government of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, on consumer protection in Ghana, one of the most important right issues in a free market like ours.
His statement is made ahead of March 15, 2023, when the world will be celebrating Consumer Rights Day, a day set aside to raise global awareness about consumer rights and needs, advocate for the respect and protection of the rights of all consumers, and protest against market abuses and social injustices that undermine consumer rights.
The issue of consumer protection, though a recent development, has been the concern of governments since ancient times. In most traditional societies, families produced for themselves the majority of the goods they consumed. And, for the goods they could not produce, a barter system ensured a fair exchange of goods for goods, to balance what each family could produce.
“With increasing trade in barter, there was the need to regulate trade to ensure what was generally termed “measure for measure,” and promote fair trading of goods. In the United Kingdom, for example, as far back as the tenth (10th) century, under the reign of King Edgar, prior to the Norman Conquest, a law was proclaimed to control the weight, measure and prices of wool. In subsequent years, similar enactments were made for bread, corn, meat and a host of other essential commodities. But it was the Sale of Goods Act of 1893, which formed the basis of present-day consumer protection in the United Kingdom.”
“Today, Mr. Speaker, most countries have Consumer Protection Policies and Legislation that secure the rights of consumers against unfair practices, such as Australia’s Competition and Consumer Act, 2010; Canada’s Consumer Product Safety Act, 2010; the UK’s Consumer Rights Act, 2015; South Africa’s Consumer Protection Act, 2018; and India’s Consumer Protection Act, 2019.
Most jurisdictions also have special bodies that deal with consumer protection, such as the Competition and Consumer Commission of Australia, the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission of Nigeria, the Competition Commission of Kenya, and the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore.
In our case, Mr. Speaker, attempts to protect consumers predate our attainment of independence, with statutes like the Weights and Measures Ordinance, 1896 (Cap 188) and the Control of Prices Regulations, 1949 (No. 25 of 1949). These attempts continued after independence, with the enactment of the Rent (Stabilisation) Act, 1962 (Act 109), Price Control Act, 1962 (Act 113), and the Sale of Goods Act, 1962 (Act 137).
Mr. Speaker, despite these efforts, we have not been able to develop, over the years, a single legislation for the protection of consumers. Currently, our legal and regulatory framework for the protection of consumer rights is fragmented in difference pieces of legislation, amongst them being the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission Act, 1997 (Act 538), the National Petroleum Authority Act, 2005 (Act 691), the Electronic Communications Act, 2008 (Act 775), the Public Health Act, 2012 (Act 851), and, recently, the Ghana Standards Authority Act, 2022 (Act 1078),” he added.