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Consumers’ right; Four shields of consumers

By Olaoye Esther Yemisi

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The consumers’ rights are the four shields given to consumers to help them protect themselves from the spears (violations and injuries) caused by producers and manufacturers. In Nigeria, the rights of consumers are not widely known by them. This is because little or no information is given on these rights.

Many consumers are ignorant of their rights, as well as the resources available to them. The rights of consumers have been violated in many scenarios. An instance is the violation of the consumer’s right to safety through sniper-treated beans. In this case, farmers and wholesalers use dangerous chemicals to preserve the beans. These chemicals, when consumed, can be hazardous to health. To protect consumers from the violations and present them with ways to fight such violations,  some agencies were established.

The Consumer Protection Council (CPC) was founded under the Consumer Protection Council Act, Cap 25, 2004, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, to promote and protect the interest of consumers. Consumer’s rights are paramount, which is why agencies and laws were established to protect and fight for the interest of the consumers. These rights give the consumers a high hand over the manufacturers and their products.

The consumer’s right to safety is the first shield a consumer possesses. It removes harmful and substandard goods from the market. The right to information gives consumers relevant notice or information about a manufacturer and its products. The right to be heard provides fast redress to consumer complaints and ends the unscrupulous exploitation of consumers. The final shield of the consumer, which is the right to choice, ensures the availability of a healthy market open for competition where consumers have varieties of options and choices.

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One of the agencies that were set up in Nigeria to safeguard these rights is the Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON). The SON is a national body that creates criteria for products. The National Agency for Food and Drugs  Administration and Control (NAFDAC) regulates standards for certain products, such as food, drugs, and cosmetics. The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) regulates standards concerning drugs.

To fix the problem of inadequate knowledge about consumer rights, programs should be set up to educate citizens about their basic consumer rights, how to protect their rights, agencies to report to, as well as how to fight for their rights. 

Consumers form the biggest economic group in a country. Therefore, the success and failure of every business depend on the consumer as a valuable asset. To achieve success in their various businesses, producers must ensure that all their products are in line with their consumers’ requirements, to avoid violating the consumers’ rights. These violations can be in the form of a wrong claim, which deals with wrong information about a product or exaggerating the features of a product to sell more. This is very wrong and can be misleading to consumers.

Most companies do not produce goods and services with their consumers as priority. They produce goods to maximize sales and increase profit, which is their major priority. To them, consumers are just tools needed to make sales and increase profit, which is why product standard laws and consumer protection laws are very important to protect the consumers. Producers must ensure that their products offer the essential benefits they were created for.

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Consumers have a key responsibility that they must fulfill to contribute to the protection of their rights which is to report fraudulent activities or unscrupulous business practices carried out by producers. A consumer that does not report such activity is seen as a threat. Consumers must ensure they carry out this responsibility properly by reporting to the appropriate agencies to work hand in hand with them.

The consumer’s basic rights are as important as the fundamental human rights of citizens. These consumer rights must not be violated by institutions or the government. All consumers have the right to consumer education.  This will help them to be knowledgeable about their rights, as well as the usage of certain products. For instance, in the case of sniper-treated beans, consumers are advised to parboil their beans and wash them thoroughly before they cook the beans for consumption, to avoid death or injuries to their health. Therefore, without consumer education, consumer will not be knowledgeable about their rights.

Olaoye is a 300level student of Mass Communication Department,  Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko

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