The Consumer Protection Council (CPC) has ordered VIP Express Tourism Limited to refund over N25 million to 63 aggrieved subscribers of its holiday packages, due to gross violation of their rights.
CPC’s Order, which was signed by its Director General, Mrs. Dupe Atoki, was the outcome of its investigation into the operations of the company, following complaints alleging gross abuse of consumers’ rights against the company.
The Council’s investigation was informed by the multiplicity of consumer complaints, concerning the quality of service provided by VIP Express Tourism Limited and in particular allegations that consumers of its services had been pressurised, manipulated or deceived into contracts for the provision of vacation accommodation services
VIP Express Tourism Limited is into hospitality business through which it enlists subscriptions from the public with the promise of facilitating subscribers’ holiday destination desires after their completion of agreed payments.
According to the Council, “VIP Express Tourism Limited purchases timeshares on behalf of its members but once the member signs on to any of its packages, the contract cannot be rescinded neither can the member get a refund of monies paid because abinitio members were made to waive their cancellation rights upon signing the contract”.
It explained further the company’s business practice, which is designed in such a manner that “after a 90-minute presentation, prospective clients must immediately execute a 10-page contract and endorse 17 clauses containing a non-rescission clause and a non-refund clause, without the benefit of legal counsel, financial or other advise and in circumstances that do not afford the client time to consider the offer, is unscrupulous, obnoxious and exploitative”.
CPC alleged that the company’s operational method was predatory and that its business practice in which consumers were pressurised to unwittingly sign off their legal rights to rescind or get a refund of monies paid wasunethical and exploitative.
The Council contended that, contrary to what has been obtainable in VIP Express Tourism Limited’s business operations, international best practice allows for cancellation of timeshare.
The Council disclosed that its investigation substantiated various allegations of violations of its enabling Act, arguing that “the complainants having paid various sums of money to the respondent at various times are entitled to a refund, because the contract is obnoxious, unscrupulous, exploitative and therefore cannot be enforced against them”.
CPC, therefore, directed the company to, within 30 days of the receipt of the Order, refund the total sum of N25, 062, 223 to the aggrieved consumers, and that “in the event of default pay interest thereon at the prevailing bank interest rate for any day of default until final liquidation”.
The Council also ordered the company to within the same 30 days “review its contract agreements by removing the clauses that waive the consumers right to rescind the contract and get a refund and submit same to the Council for review”, and that the agreements must “specify the time within which prospective subscribers may rescind the contract and be entitled to refund”.
It also directed VIP Express Tourism Limited to “ensure full disclosure of all material facts in all documents to prospective subscribers to enable them make informed decisions”; refrain from the use of unscrupulous and obnoxious methods of persuasion to get customers to sign contracts; and to desist from the use of predatory systems to get the custom of consumers.
CPC also ordered the company to “provide a written consumer complaint and redress policy with specific provisions regarding cancellation, reservation, refund of subscribers’ monies” and to submit same to it for approval within 30 days of the receipt of the Order and post same on its website.
It also directed the company to “present written assurances in line with Section 10 of the Consumer Protection Council Act that it would refrain from a continuation of any conduct which is detrimental to the interest of consumers of their services”.
The Consumer Protection Council (CPC) has disclosed that it has ordered redress up to the tune of N2.5 billion for consumers in 2016 as refunds and compensation in the resolution of their complaints on unsatisfactory services and products.
The Council’s feat was made known on Wednesday (December 14, 2016) in Lagos during the public presentation of the agency’s 2016 Annual Report by the Director General, Mrs. Dupe Atoki.
The Director General disclosed that the N2.5 billion included foreign currencies of $31,948.87 and €1,406 recovered for aggrieved consumers, who complained to the Council.
According to her, financial services recorded the highest value of the total amount, while insurance and pensions had the least value.
She stated further that out of the 5,000 total number of complaints received in various sectors, 4,000 were resolved, while electricity/power and chemical and allied products sectors had highest and least number of complaints respectively.
Mrs. Atoki disclosed that under enforcement, the total value of substandard products removed from Nigerian markets was over
N242.3 million with food and beverages taking the lion share of over N200 million and tobacco with the least value of about N300,000.
Further breakdown of the value of seized products showed that substandard products worth over N202 million were seized from malls, super and open markets, shops and warehouses, while the value of electrical and electronic products seized during the period is N40 million.
Shedding more light on the activities of the Council, the director general attributed the positive strides made by the Council during her administration, particularly in the year 2016, to the adoption of sectoral intervention and other initiatives.
She emphasized that “the sectoral intervention adopted in the strategic plan enabled such result and provided speed and spread to consumer redress”.
She asserted that the achievements highlighted in the annual report “is a reflection of the work we have done to promote and protect the interest of Nigerian consumers”, pointing out that when she assumed office in May 2013, “consumer abuse in virtually all sectors was pervasive”.
The CPC boss said, due to the huge consumer abuse in virtually all sectors of the economy, “the Council in developing its 2013-2017 strategic plan, identified a tripod stand for a fast track delivery of its mandate via sectoral intervention, enhanced consumer awareness and collaborations with other sector regulators”.
Mrs. Atoki, who said the Annual Report has highlighted most significant achievements and interventions of the Council for the year 2016, disclosed that the organisation deployed the sectoral intervention strategy in the satellite television service, food and beverage with particular reference to the beer industry, banking, hospitality, aviation and electricity sectors.
She explained that the intervention of the Council in satellite television service, focused on Multichoice Nigeria Limited, out of which consumers have been enjoying improved services, while its action in the hospitality sector focused on the VIP Express Tourism Limited with its Order for the refund of over N25 million to over 60 of the company’s subscribers because of exploitative service.
Mrs. Atoki also pointed out that the Council’s intervention in “telecommunication and food & beverage is to safeguard advert/promo/information that are deceptive or misleading”, stating that “in this wise, the foremost provider of telecommunication service in Nigeria, MTN Nigeria Communications Ltd came under investigation for deceptive promo” that led to the Council’s Order for balance payment of N1.85 million to a consumer who was earlier paid N150,000 as against the N2 million winning prize.
On consumer education, the director general said more attention was given to grass root sensitization in addition to the Council’s impactful weekly Television and Radio programmes, which generated a combined consumer awareness weekly outreach of 120 million consumers, in terms of viewership and listenership respectfully.
On the on-line platforms, Mrs. Atoki disclosed that the visibility of the Council has also grown considerably as “evident in the increase the Council has noticed in its social media followership and website visits”.