Thursday, April 5, 2012
GAMBIA: Sensitisation On Consumer Protection Bill
The Gambia Competition Commission under the purview of Ministry of Trade, Employment and Regional Integration, with the technical andfinancial support from Tradecom, organised a stakeholders workshop on the Implementation of a Competition and Consumer Protection Regime.
The stakeholders workshop was held at the Kairaba Beach Hotel, the sensitization forum focused on consumer protection bill gears towards enlightening stakeholders on principles of consumer protection laws in The Gambia. The sensitization workshop on consumer protection regime was expected to cover substantive areas in competition law such as introduction to competition policy and law; issues of enforcement of competition law; fundamentals of abuse of dominance; fundamentals of merger control;rules on investigation, deception of consumers, and abuses, inter alia.
Also to be covered during the workshop were the Legal review of the competition bill and the model Consumer Protection Law and development of draft enforcement guidelines and advice for implementation of a merger control regime for the Gambia Competition Commission (GCC).
Hon. Alhaji T.S.A Njie, Chairman Gambia Competition Commission underscored the significance of the meeting while pointing out that the sensitization training by experts on the substantive areas of Competition Law enforcement aimed at building human and institutional capacity of the Gambia Competition Commission. Njie also noted at the official opening of the workshop that, some of the deliverables expected from the project include the assessment of the status of enforcement of the competition bill for level playing field in key sectors, with specific emphasis to focus on the position of foreign investors.
The project also has a component for capacity building development areas such as on substantive principles, case management, analysis and investigation, including training of trainer’s component and providing technical advisory services to the GCC management for effective implementation of programs and activities of GCC. He implored the participants to scrutinize the Consumer protection draft bill to ensure the it reflects the true picture of what is happening currently as far as consumer protection is concerned.
For his part, Amadou Ceesay, Executive Secretary of GCC said the draft legislation seeks to cover the basics of consumer protection including misleading advertising and deceptive trade practices, along with defining the expected protection for consumers and the obligations of suppliers and providers. He also said standards for physical safety and facilitating and enforcing the removal of harmful products from the market are included.
The draft, he told the workshop, has drawn from both the African model law on consumer protection and other internationally accepted norms concerning consumer safety. It proposes provisions, the propriety of which, depends on the existence of other laws or institutions of the Gambia.
“The draft bill reflects an effort to align international standards with the particular characteristics of the economy and legal system of the Gambia”, he said, noting in this regard, it focuses on market behavior that is most likely to be found in smaller developing and least-developed economies. He believes this is a national issue that targets everyone and the need to protect the consumer is paramount, while its importance cannot be over emphasiszed. Ceesay was optimistic that the forum would avail the participants the opportunity to be grounded on the substantive areas of consumer protection with a view to making it fit the Gambian context. He told his audience that at the end of the sensitization forum, feedback and comments that emerged therefrom would be incorporated in the draft bill and later be validated and endorsed.
Professor Prentiss Cox, former Minnesota Assistant Attorney General and Clinical professor of Law, University of Minnesota, on a power point lectures talked about the principles of consumer protection law and the need to have consumer protection laws, as well as the difference between consumer protection laws and competitions law.
Prof. Cox used case studies to get participants to better understand the issues by giving examples of European Union unfair commercial standards in mis-leading action. This “mis-leading”action by the European Union, he said, contained false information and is therefore “untruthful” or is likely to deceive the average consumer. He also spoke at length about the Standards versus Rules in relation to misrepresenting product quality, price, omitting safety concerns such as fuel gyser case and high pressure sales tactics.
The draft document, Prof. Cox said seeks to cover the basics of misleading advertising and deceptive trade practice, along with defining the expected protection for consumers and the obligation of suppliers and providers. In addition, standards for physical safety and facilitating and enforcing the removal of harmful products from the market are included, he said. The document has been drawn concerning consumer safety, according to him, noting that it proposes provisions, the propriety of which, depends on the existence or which assumes a lacunae of other laws or institutions of The Gambia.
The draft Act, he further explained that reflects an effort to align international standards with the particular characteristics of the economy and legal system of The Gambia.
In this regard, it focuses on market behavior that is most likely to be found in smaller developing and least-developed countries, he stated.