As a matter of operation of law, consumer protection is a vital and joint responsibility on many levels. Because it is a crucial centrepiece of business, and a primary and critical role of government, it is not uncommon that there is dual, or multiple regulation and regulators. This duplication or multiplicity is not a conflict, nor is it unintended. On the contrary, it is an overlap. Regulatory overlap is a deliberate and common design to ensure complete coverage and protection which is paramount in consumer protection.
As such, by law, several sector regulators also have statutory responsibilities to protect consumers in their sectors. Although the Consumer Protection Council has overall oversight over protecting consumers across all sectors, the concurrent regulatory jurisdiction and approach in the laws seeks to improve protection outcomes by fostering collaboration.
To accomplish this, CPC promotes and engages in strategic alliances with sector regulators and other parties with whom a partnership can reinforce consumer protection and prevent mistreatment or exploitation of citizens. Apart from the regulatory convergence on consumer protection with other regulators, institutional objectives convergence with the Council’s mandate occurs with civil society and sometimes, development partners. These are important to the Council. Some of these strategic alliances define the Council’s processes or how issues are addressed in different sectors.
Consumer Protection Alliances
CPC is established by law to protect citizens in the market place. Essentially, our role is to prevent abuse, exploitation and any form of mistreatment or disregard with respect to consumers. Where something has gone wrong and the consumer(s) is/are aggrieved, we exercise the tools provided by laws and regulations to ensure remedies for consumers.
A critical mandate of the Council includes collaboration with industry, trade and professional associations and other relevant stakeholders, particularly civil society. The reason and purpose for this collaboration is that; in addition to being an effective mechanism for educating consumers about their rights, it also provides vital channels for disseminating periodic and relevant information about emerging consumer related issues. As such, and in furtherance of this partnership, the Council maintains a register of non-profit Consumer Protection Associations (CPAs) that are recognized for their consumer protection work.
Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)
The CBN and the Council have forged a strong working relationship in furtherance of their mutual interest to ensure consumer satisfaction and prevent exploitation in the financial institutions sector. The Council and CBN routinely collaborate in the resolving consumer complaints and financial sector investigations. In addition, periodic and specific consultations occur with respect to products, processes and trends in the industry and how to address same and provide guidance. These and many other issues in the industry are the subject of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Central bank and the Council.
Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)
The Council collaborates with EFCC with respect to fraud in the market place. When there is evidence that operations of market players constitute the essential elements of a financial crime, the Council collaborates with the EFCC to investigate and provide remedies to victims in such circumstances. The Council and EFCC operate under an existing tripartite Memorandum of Understanding. Both institutions also exchange information and provide mutual enforcement support.
Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC)
The Council collaborates with FRSC to ensure the safety and comfort of road transport consumers. The Council seeks the support of FRSC in investigation and resolving consumer complaints relating to road travels, when necessary. The relationship between the Council and FRSC recently expanded to joint sensitization projects as well as other joint initiatives.
National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC)
The Council collaborates with NAFDAC in cases involving the food drugs and beverage industry. Core areas of focus include interdicting harmful, fake, substandard products before entering trade, and seizure and confiscation after entering trade. In addition, scientific testing knowledge skills and facilities are key areas of support from NAFDAC.
Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC)
The Council collaborates with the NBC in relation to protecting the rights of consumers of broadcasting services. The Council has on occasion conducted joint investigations with NBC. The Council also provides feedback to NBC on content being aired and consumer views with respect to such content.
Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA)
The Council works to raise consumer awareness regarding their rights as aviation consumers and has condensed the Passenger Bill of Rights into consumer education material for easier dissemination. In addition, Council sensitizes consumers on the complaint resolution mechanism of the NCAA and the cooperation between the Council and the NCAA. Both agencies jointly resolve consumer complaints.The Council collaborates with NESREA to ensure safe destruction of seized goods. Both institutions also collaborate on the development of relevant regulations.
Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC)
The Council and NCC collaborate to ensure the protection of communication services consumers. This collaboration is guided by a Memorandum of Understanding. Both institutions collaborate to ensure that service providers comply with appropriate standards and deliver value to consumers. When grievances occur, both agencies also cross refer and collaborate in resolving complaints and addressing market trends. The working relationship involves provision of technical support, information sharing, and consumer education, amongst other forms of collaboration.
Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC)
The Council and NERC have a Memorandum of Understanding which guides their collaboration on consumer rights related matters in the power sector. The Council is part of the NERC Consumer Forum which is an administrative appeal platform for consumer complaints. The Forum meets regularly to resolve complaints by consumers.
National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA)
The Council collaborates with NESREA to ensure safe destruction of seized goods. Both institutions also collaborate on the development of relevant regulations.
National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA)
NITDA as the standard and policy setting agency of the government in technology collaborates with CPC in ensuring standards are appropriate for consumer satisfaction. CPC also collaborates with NITDA in enforcing standards between technology partners in E-Commerce to ensure seamless and satisfactory consumer experience. A memorandum of Understanding is currently being developed to better articulate and effectively implement this relationship.
Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON)
The Council routinely participates in SON’s technical committees for standards setting and review. The standard setting process is a vital forum for the Council to discharge a core statutory mandate which is ensuring consumer interests receive due consideration at appropriate fora.
International and Regional Development Partners
African Consumer Protection Dialogue Conference
The African Consumer Protection Dialogue is a joint initiative of African competition and consumer protection regulators and the United States Federal Trade Commission which started in 2009. The Dialogue provides a platform to promote consumer protection and cross-border cooperation. The Dialogue is a vital tool for knowledge and information sharing, capacity building and joint projects including investigations, consumer education and business guidance.
United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)
The Council actively participates in the activities of UNCTAD and has served on technical committees to review relevant guidelines.
United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO)
The Council and UNIDO collaborate on a key component of the NQIP. Specifically, a quality awareness campaign across the country, development of a Consumer Charter, and establishment of a Training Centre.