On 15 March, 1962, President John F. Kennedy sent a special message to the US Congress in which he formally addressed the issue of consumer rights.
He was the first world leader to do so, and the consumer movement now marks 15 March with World Consumer Rights Day every year as a means of raising global awareness about consumer rights and needs.
President Kennedy said: ‘Consumers include us all. They are the largest economic group, affecting and affected by almost every public and private economic decision. Yet they are the only important group… whose views are often not heard.’
Marking this year’s event with the theme ‘Making Digital Marketplaces Fairer’, the Consumer Protection Agency CEO Kofi Kapito said his outfit has been trying for the past ten years to get Cabinet to draft the Consumer Protection Law – and four Presidents have come and gone, yet the process is painstakingly slow.
Without such a comprehensive law in place to protect consumers, Ghana has virtually become a dumping ground for all manner of inferior goods because we operate an open marketplace here in the country.
Even though we profess free trade, we are against the dumping of sub-standard goods and products in the country, and we feel a consumer protection law would ameliorate some of these excesses. But in the absence of such a law, consumer advocacy is hard to do; and people can get away, literally, with anything under the guise of free trade.
If neighbouring countries like Nigeria, Cameroon, Benin and Ivory Coast can all have in place a Consumer Protection Law, why can’t Ghana – which is considered a leading light in Africa, much less West Africa.
Whatever is hindering Cabinet from approving passage of a Consumer Protection Law, it must be noted that as the Ghanaian becomes more enlightened and sophisticated, s/he demands the best – especially when it is the norm in many successful jurisdictions.
We believe the same reasons why the Right to Information bill is stalling dictate why the powers-that-be are ‘hastening slowly’ with passage of the Consumer Protection Law. Its promulgation will protect Ghanaians from charlatans and con-people, whose only motive is to play on people’s ignorance to make a quick buck.