COLUMN | The Consumer Protection Act: What we need to know

Zimbabwe economy

With Mike Murenzvi

In December 2019, the Consumer Protection Act [Chapter 14:14] (“The Act”) was enacted. This brought about a new focus on the rights of consumers that had long since been eroded. It replaces the Consumer Contracts Act which previously provided very limited protection against unfair seller practices and those had to be enforced by the courts.

This series of articles aims to enlighten and explain the various provisions of the Act for the benefit of both buyers and sellers.

The Basics of the Act

The Act aims to protect consumers by ensuring a fair, efficient, sustainable and transparent marketplace for consumers and business; to provide for the establishment of the Consumer Protection Commission and its functions; to provide for the regulation of Consumer Advocacy Organisations; to provide for alternative dispute resolution; to repeal the Consumer Contracts Act [Chapter 8:03]; and to provide for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto

The Act is broken down into the following major areas:

  1. Establishment of the Consumer Protection Commission
  2. Fundamental Consumer Rights
  3. Electronic Transactions
  4. Consumer Protection Organisations
  5. Enforcement of Rights
  6. Offences and Penalties

From these sections, we will explore the different rights obligations and institutions that make up the consumer protection ecosystem.

Application of the Act

The Act applies to every transaction for the promotion or supply of goods and services within Zimbabwe, except where the supplier of such goods or services is the State, or the supply of services is by way of an employment contract, or the goods involved constitute immovable property.

Simply put, any sale or purchase of goods or services except for the three exclusions is governed by this Act.

Consumer Protection Commission

A new statutory body known as the Consumer Protection Commission was created by the Act. The Commission comprises twelve commissioners with a range of skills and experience including, environment, agriculture, industry and commerce, competition and trade, standards and quality, energy, and law. Five of the members must be from accredited consumer protection advocacy groups and shall be qualified or experienced in consumer protection.

These Commissioners are appointed for a five-year term and may serve for a maximum of two terms. Over and above this, the Commission also has a Chief Executive Officer who coordinates the daily activities.

In April 2021, it was announced that a seven-member Commission had been appointed. The current Commission is composed of Dr Mthokozisi Nkosi (Chairperson), Rosemary Mpofu, Nomazulu Donga, Davison Gomo, Ethel Hlabangana, Rainess Chadoka and Respina Zinyanduko.

The Act bestows several functions on the Commission to protect consumers from unconscionable, unreasonable, unjust or otherwise improper trade practices; as well as deceptive, misleading, unfair or fraudulent conduct; conduct conciliation and arbitration between parties, conduct education and awareness, provide consensual resolution of disputes and redress arising from consumer transactions, investigate and evaluate alleged prohibited conduct and offences, and to ensure that prohibited conduct and offences are prevented, detected and prosecuted.

In the next instalment, we look at the Commission’s functions in detail.

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Mike Murenzvi writes in his personal capacity and his views are not associated with any organisation he is, or may be, affiliated with.