BUSINESS people, especially those in the retail and transport sectors, are shortchanging their customers through the use of illegal disclaimer clauses, Post Business has learnt.
Under the pretext of no warranty, no guarantee and or no refund, many businesses have the tendency of selling products with a day or two left to their sell-by-date, some at enticing reduced prices, in order to clear stocks at the expense of the consumer.
But unbeknown to many consumers, according to the Consumer Protection Act which was enacted in 2019, disclaimer clauses such as We do not compensate for lost luggage; Parcels are left at owner’s risk; Vehicles are parked at owner’s risk; No warranty, No guarantee and No refund are all illegal.
Consumer Protection Act of 2019, which gave birth to the appointment of the Consumer Protection Commission (CPC) last year, outlaws the use of disclaimer clauses under Section 42.
Section 42: Disclaimer Clause reads: (1) No supplier, service provider of goods or services, owner or occupier of a shop or other trading premises shall display or cause to be displayed any sign or notice that purports to disclaim any liability or deny any right that a consumer has under this Act or any other law.
“(2) In addition to subsection (1) unfair contractual clauses include such words as but not limited to — (a) no refund; or (b) no returns; or (c) no exchanges.”
Those found guilty of contravening this law, according to the Act, are liable to a fine not exceeding Level 12 or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years or to both the fine and imprisonment.
All this came to light during a consumer engagement and outreach programme hosted by the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (POTRAZ), the Consumer Protection Commission (CPC), Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ), Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) and the Zimbabwe Republic Police at Beacon Hill village in Mt Selinda, Chipinge, last week on Friday.
Speaking during the outreach event, CPC chairman, Dr Mthokozisi Nkosi said: “The transport sector has serious issues and so does the grocery retail sector. For the transport sector, the workers in the industry are rude when dealing with clients. Tickets are written that if luggage is lost, they will not compensate.
“In our grocery shops, parcel counters are written ‘left at owner’s risk’. Vehicle parking bays are written ‘park at owner’s risk.’ ‘No warranty, no guarantee and no refund’ has become the order of the day in retail shops. This is illegal according to the law of the land. It all promotes theft of consumers’ property and violation of their rights,” said Dr Nkosi.
On the issue of price increeases for commodities, Dr Nkosi said: “If we put price controls, we will get into more problems. That is not an option.
Price controls will only result in suppliers and producers removing products from the market.
Therefore, as a Commission, we are engaging different suppliers and producers to have lasting solutions on price hikes.
“We work with the National Competitiveness Commission, which is under the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, to engage the producers and suppliers of certain products that are above the acceptable prices,” he said.
Dr Nkosi said the Commission will also ensure that the mission of the CPC is cascaded to villages and towns across the country.
“We are going to have Consumer Protection Officers who will work in tandem with the mantra of leaving no one and no place behind. That way, all consumers will have their grievances solved.
“This will enable us to fulfil our mandate as a Commission.
“We are also lobbying for consumer advocacy groups. Group members will talk with one voice on certain issues, just like the Passengers Association of Zimbabwe for those that use public transport.
“This is also the same with sector associations which are important to us as they deal with a specific service or product. We have the Bankers Association of Zimbabwe or the Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ) and if a lawyer shortchanges a client, issues can be resolved by LSZ,” he said.
Dr Nkosi underscored the importance of a vibrant culture of consumerism.
“A competitive economy is characterised by alert consumers. This has been one of our major problems as a country. When one gets a poor service or product, they often complain silently. That should stop.
“We are working with the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) on the establishment of Consumer Courts. At times, court processes take too long to be completed; therefore these specialised courts will help expedite concerns from shortchanged consumers,” he said.
Last Friday’s consumer engagement outreach event in Chipinge was the third after one was held in Binga, Matabeleland North early this year and another one in Zezani, Matabeleland South just before the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown.