Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Competition and Consumer Authority seeks to assert its position

Following the merging of the Competition Authority and the Department of Consumer Affairs at MITI just over a year ago, the resultant entity – the Competition and Consumer Authority (CCA) has said that it now looks into educating local consumers about their rights and protections. 

This is after the realisation that issues of consumer protection and education still remain a concern in the country. 

Director of Communications and Stakeholder Relations at CCA – Gideon Nkala says the authority has come to appreciate that there is a lot that needs to be done to educate consumers about their rights and protections as captured in the Consumer Protection. 

“The CCA needs to do even more in educating both consumers and businesses on their responsibilities. Quite often there is a tendency to emphasize on rights and neglect responsibilities. We have always known that consumer awareness, consumer confidence will not be achieved through the efforts of CCA alone, it must be a collaborative effort between consumers, consumer groups, business and general civic society groupings”, says Nkala.

In relation to making the market environment competitive, Nkala says there is no getting around the fact that there is need to identify barriers to competition, remove these barriers either through a less acrimonious process (advocacy) or through enforcement of the Competition Law (going to the Competition Tribunal), constantly engaging in market research to identify pockets of anti-competition across the economic sectors. 

In Nkala and the CCA’s view, this will ultimately ensure that the economy is open to everyone and it is robust to deliver innovative products and services that are of quality, cheap and offer consumer choice. 

Some notable achievements the Authority has made thus far include reducing the amount of time it takes to assess merger transactions, for simple and complex mergers. Merger cases handled in 2019 had increased by over 80 percent compared to last year’s case load. 

According to the 2019/20 CCA annual report states that new market players have entered into these sectors as soon as the barriers were removed. A crucial market study in the pharmaceutical area was completed during the financial year. The provision of pharmaceuticals is one area, though heavily regulated, which is highly concentrated and our hope is that this study will among other things help to make the sector more accessible and competitive.

Furthermore, at the end of that financial year, the Authority had registered over 400 consumer complaints and well over half of these had been resolved.

Nkala further maintains that the Authority has brought a number of tangible benefits to the economy of Botswana. 

“The first and obvious benefit is that there is a watchdog or regulator of anti-competition; this on its own is a restraint on the conduct of businesses. Consumer Protection Act is now being enforced and a number of businesses that flouted the Act by denying consumers their rights have been brought onto line.”

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