The Consumer Protection Council (CPC) has commenced investigation into the veracity of the recent widely publicised claims of the Nigerian Breweries Plc (NB) regarding the health benefits of beer consumption, alleging that the claims are capable of luring unsuspecting consumers into unwholesome consumption of the product.
Nigerian Breweries had in media reportage of its recent symposium held in Lagos early July 2016 asserted that consumption of beer has many nutrional, health and therapeutic benefits.
CPC, in a swift reaction, has sent a notice of the commencement of investigation of the claims to the leading brewery company, quoting relevant sections of its law mandating it to protect consumers from misleading advertisement or information on any consumer item, among others.
The Council, in a letter signed by its Director General, Mrs. Dupe Atoki, listed some of the claims, which include that beer is not an alcoholic beverage and that if taken regularly and in moderation has many defined nutritional and health benefits and can indeed be part of a healthy life style.
Other claims by the company also include that “beer consumption has therapeutic qualities such as prevention of kidney stones, increase in anti-oxidant activity in the body, reduction in the risk of heart disease and blood pressure management”.
The government agency expressed its reservation that the claims “in effect suggest that beer is a health drink and have the potential to lure unsuspecting consumers into unwholesome consumption of the product”, and therefore gave Nigerian Breweries 14 days to respond to the notice with relevant documents and to show proof of certification of its claims and registration with relevant agencies.
Mrs. Atoki, while commenting on the development, said the Council’s impending investigation of the company’s alleged claims became inevitable in view of its mandate to ensure information put out to consumers are not misleading and to also check obnoxious practices or the unscrupulous exploitation of consumers by companies, firms and trade associations or individuals.
She pointed out that, in conducting the investigation, the Council would collaborate with the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), which is the specific regulator for the sector, and the Federal Ministry of Health.
According to her, NAFDAC and the ministry have been appropriately communicated to on the development and the CPC’s decision to investigate the veracity of the claims for the benefits of Nigerian consumers.
The Consumer Protection Council (CPC) has ordered First City Monument Bank (FCMB) to refund N1, 542,775,841.58 to the Bauchi State Government (BASG), being the total sum of illegal deductions made from the state government’s loan account with the bank.
CPC’s Order was made after the conclusion of its investigation into a petition from the Bauchi State Government, alleging that it had been short-changed by FCMB with N1, 864,188,594.78 excess interest and other charges on its loan account with the bank.
The Bauchi State Government sent the petition to the Council after the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) declined further adjudication on the case through a letter dated July 15, 2015 to the petitioner, asking it to “seek alternative means of redress as the case is hereby deemed closed”.
CPC disclosed that FCMB, which was then known as First Inland Bank Limited, granted BASG two term loans of N10 billion and N3 billion in 2009 and 2011 respectively at 13% floating interest rate as claimed by the state government, while FCMB said it was increased to 21%, raising the dispute as to whether or not the increase in interest rate was duly communicated to BASG.
Following the complaint to CPC from BASG, the Director-General constituted a panel of experts, including those from the office of the Accountant-General of the Federation, which deliberated extensively on the matter, and provided the parties repeated opportunities to make representations
Having reviewed the various responses, documents and presentations made by the parties at the investigative hearings, the Council disclosed that it found out that the increase in the interest rate was not duly communicated to BASG and that the interest rates applied across board by FCMB were excessive and arbitrary with some charges as high as over 50%.
The Council also found that apart from the arbitrary and excessive interest charges, the substantial part of the unlawful deductions was made from the principal loan repayment.
Also identified as part of the illegal deductions by CPC’s investigation was the excess processing fees and even management fee which was not provided for in the offer letters.
The Council therefore ordered FCMB to refund to BASG all excess interest charges and unlawful deductions in the total sum of N1,542,775,841.58 and at the prevailing interest rate.
According to the Council, this order is in line with its functions to provide redress for unscrupulous exploitation of consumers by companies, firms, trade associations or individuals, under Section 2 (i) of the Consumer Protection Council Act, Cap. C25 of the laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004
The government agency ordered FCMB to report compliance to the Order within 30 days of receipt. It also ordered the bank to develop and present to it a Customer Complaint Resolution Policy within 30 days of the receipt of the Order and post same on its website.
In addition, CPC also directed the bank to “present written assurances in line with Section 10 of the Consumer Protection Council Act that they will refrain from a continuation of any conduct which is detrimental to the interest of consumers of banking services”.
The Council further disclosed that it had communicated all the Orders given to the bank to the Central Bank of Nigeria.
Commenting on the development, the Council’s Director General, Mrs. Dupe Atoki, charged Nigerian banks to realise that their customers, either corporate or individual, symbolise the essence of their existence, and therefore should exhibit high level of professionalism and ethical practice in their interaction with the customers.
Mrs. Atoki assured that the Council will continue to fight for the rights of aggrieved consumers in any sector of the country’s economy.
The Consumer Protection Council (CPC) on Monday berated businesses operating in the country for their failure to live up to implied or specified guarantee and warranty for the products and services they offer.The Council also observed that the success of the drive of the country to diversify its economy will hinge on the quality of products and the entrenchment of guarantee and warranty in the country’s business culture.
CPC’s Director General, Mrs. Dupe Atoki, who made the assertions while addressing key industry operators in automobile, electrical/electronics, heavy duty equipment, on-line markets and superstores subsectors of the nation’s economy at a meeting in Lagos, hinted that the Council’s commitment towards the entrenchment of guarantee and warranty business culture is also to support government’s renewed drive to diversify the nation’s economy.
Mrs. Atoki noted with regret that manufacturers and distributors have not only short-changed Nigerian consumers over time by their failure to honour their products or services’ implied guarantee or warranty, but have also abused consumer rights with ouster clauses, such as “no refund of money after payment,” and “goods received in good condition cannot be returned” on their receipts.
The CPC boss stated that “worse still is the fact that even multinational corporations that adhere strictly to the tenets of implied or specified guarantee and warranty in other countries, come up with all sorts of devices in Nigeria to renege on same”.While describing the situation as unacceptable, she advised businesses operating in the country to emulate their counterparts in other climes where “the concept of guarantee and warranty is taken for granted because manufacturers in those countries do not only strive to produce according to specifications, but also make after sales service an integral part of their marketing strategy”.
She added: “As a result, businesses in such climes have clearly articulated policies on return, repair, replacement or refund of money for products which do not meet the expectation of consumers”.
The director general observed that the almost non-existent after sales service culture among businesses in Nigeria has denied Nigerian consumers of simple redress of their complaints without the intervention of the Council.
According to her, “it is a common occurrence to see businesses invent reasons to justify why consumers should not derive the desired benefits from their purchases”, noting further that “it is disheartening, for instance, to see a consumer purchases a product, which should serve for a number of years, but malfunctions after a few weeks, without any indication of support from the supplier.
“In countries where consumer satisfaction is at the heart of business, such occurrences will trigger a spate of investigations to enable the producer unravel the real cause of the problem, with a view to forestalling same in future. But here in Nigeria, save for evidence of purchase receipts, some companies will go as far as disowning the product” she asserted.
Mrs. Atoki insisted that for abuse of consumer rights to be drastically contained in Nigeria, “businesses must as a basic minimum, adhere to the tenets of guarantee and warranty”.
On the efforts of the government to diversify the nation’s economy and reduce dependence on foreign products, she stated that more attention must be given to consumers’ perception of local products and services.
She argued that “as government begins to push for diversification, which will lead to increased production, sustaining the interest of Nigerian consumers in Made-in-Nigeria products will hinge on quality and entrenchment of guarantee and warranty in our business culture”, stating that “a poor quality product that fails to give value for money without consumer remedies will eventually lead to a closure of the business.
“For Government to successfully diversify the nation’s economy, businesses in Nigeria must work hard to earn the confidence of consumers, both home and abroad. However, consumer confidence can only be earned when businesses produce quality products and services and adopt best practices in their relationship with consumers, particularly with respect to ensuring value for money”, Mrs. Atoki added.
She emphasized that “in support of the diversification policy of President Muhammadu Buhari, the CPC is poised more than ever before to ensure that products and services offered in the country do not only meet the specifications, but are offered in line with international best practices”.
She explained that the Council’s meeting with the industry operators was “to deliberate on modalities for ensuring the sanctity of guarantee and warranty in the country”, advising the operators not to see the drive to entrench guarantee and warranty in the nation’s business culture as only a means at protecting consumer rights, but as “a push for the survival of businesses, as it will help to make Nigerian products and services competitive in the global marketplace”.
The Consumer Protection Council (CPC) has been inundated with consumer complaints bordering on alleged diversion of mortgage loans and consumers’ deposits by Resort Savings and Loans Limited (RSL), prompting the Council to beam its searchlight on the primary mortgage bank’s operations.
RSL is a primary mortgage institution licensed by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to undertake mortgage business in Nigeria and it is also registered with the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN).
CPC disclosed that it had already communicated the details of the complaints from the aggrieved depositors and mortgage contributors to the company for full response and that failure of the company to respond appropriately has placed the option of the prosecution of the firm’s principal officers before it.
The consumer protection agency also disclosed that it had apprised the sector regulator, CBN and FMBN of the allegations against the company.
According to the Council, some of the allegations of the consumers against the company included its failure to pay back deposits made by consumers, even after the agreed tenor was over and repeated demands made by them, as well as its alleged diversion of loans disbursed to mortgage beneficiaries by FMBN.
CPC also disclosed that consumers accused RSL of providing them with incorrect information about their applications for National Housing Fund loans, such as giving non-existent batch numbers, with a view to deceiving them into believing that their applications were under consideration.
The Council stated that one of the complaints against the mortgage company was on behalf of a group of nine beneficiaries of FMBN Batch 54 loans, which alleged that RSL in 2014 received N149.3 million on behalf of 14 beneficiaries, including the nine and that the company failed to disburse the loans to the developers of the said beneficiaries.
CPC said the nine complainants further alleged that five of the 14 in the said batch 54, who are staff of Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) brought in the Commission to intervene on their behalf on the issue and thereby forced the mortgage company to disburse N47.25 million due to the five, leaving N102.1million undisbursed to the developers of the remaining nine.
The consumer protection agency stated that the group of nine complainants alleged that the action of the primary mortgage company not to disburse their loans led to the revocation of their letters of allocation by their developers.
The Council also disclosed that other complaints border on default in paying back deposits to depositors and failure to refund equity contributions of disappointed mortgage applicants, making the total worth of the claims against the company on the alleged diversion mortgagors’ funds and default in refund of consumers’ deposits to amount to N128,323,603.64.
Commenting on the development, CPC’s Director General, Mrs. Dupe Atoki, said the Council is determined to investigate the operations of the company as well as engage in other legal steps in line with its enabling law with a view to protecting the consumers of the services of the primary mortgage company.
This week ( 14th – 20th November) is World Antibiotic Awareness Week and the Consumer Protection Council (CPC) is calling on all Consumers to remind them again that they should beware because antibiotic resistance can kill.
Antibiotics are a group of medical drugs used to kill bacteria and treat infections. They are indeed miracle drugs because when used appropriately and responsibly, they can treat both sick humans and animals alike. However, misuse can cause resistance, which can lead to loss of life.
This year, the theme for commemoration of World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD) is Consumer Beware, Antibiotic Resistance can kill. WCRD is celebrated on the 15th of March, every year. The Council wants to remind Consumers that:
Wishing us all a very safe World Antibiotic Awareness Week and beyond!
Following complaints of alleged ill-treatment by passengers of recent London-Abuja Arik Air flights, the Consumer Protection Council (CPC) has summoned the management of the airline to appear before it to provide facts relating to the allegations.
The Council further stated that “the said passengers, many of whom had connecting flights to Cameroon, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Ibadan could not continue their journeys as a result of the non-arrival of their luggage from London, while some passengers on the said flights could not have access to personal supplies, baby food or medication.
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”.