“Regulatory Authorities Need to Engage Consumers”: Justice Samuel Date-Bah

“The regulatory authorities in the country must engage consumers on regular basis to know their concerns,” asserted Justice Samuel Date-Bah, Retired Justice of Supreme Court of Ghana and Chairman of University of Ghana Council, while speaking at a Policy Roundtable Discussion on Consumer Welfare through Effective Regulation organised by CUTS International here in Accra.

He added that the regulatory authorities need to develop a robust communication strategy to reach out to consumers. By so doing, consumers would be informed on how to file complaints and seek redress. Furthermore, he also indicated that this CUTS will hold roundtable discussions such as this, to engage civil society, academia and the media so as to address the pressing consumer concerns in the country.

Mr. James Lartey, the Head of Communications at the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA), admonished the public to be aware of fake drugs in the country. He added that the fake drug industry has become sophisticated and that it is almost impossible to decipher, in most cases, original drugs from fake ones. He mentioned an example of a fake Zentel which was discovered during its routine post surveillance exercise. He attributed this to the cunning way which some of these drugs are imported into the country. He further admitted that some of these fake drugs find themselves in the shelves of renowned pharmacy. He urged that public volunteering of information to the FDA is crucial, given that the Authority is on a forward drive to flush out perpetrators.

The National Communications Authority (NCA) informed the meeting that the authority does not engage in price setting with telecom operators but rather makes sure that the inter-connectivity charges among the various telecommunication agencies are fair. The authority believes that by allowing the market forces to dictate the tariffs, it would enhance competition and bring prices down.

The NCA will soon commence the seizure and destruction of communication gadgets that do not have the NCA certification. The rationale behind this exercise is to ensure that all equipment used in the country comply with international standards that protect consumers from hazardous products. Among others, it is also to ensure that the operations of such equipment do not affect in any way the normal functioning of other equipment or the health of people around the operational areas.

Contributing to the theme, the Centre Coordinator for CUTS, Mr. Appiah Kusi Adomako called for an effective collaboration between public regulatory authorities and CSOs to strengthen the regulatory regime in the country thereby increasing consumer and producer confidence. He called for the swift passage of consumer protection policy and law so as to protect consumers in the country.

World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD) is observed each year on March 15th. It is celebrated each year to mark the historic address made by US President John F. Kennedy on March 15th 1962, in which he was the first world statesman to set out a vision of consumer rights and recognize the importance of consumers as a group.

WCRD has become an important annual occasion for mobilising citizen action and solidarity within the international consumer movement. The day is an opportunity for promoting the basic rights of all consumers, demanding that those rights are respected and protected and protesting about the market abuses and social injustices, which undermine them.

As a consumer organisation which has recently been established in Ghana, CUTS is committed to promoting ‘consumer sovereignty’ – pursuing the goal of CUTS International that has been active in this area for over three decades now, across developing and least developed countries of both Africa and Asia. The Policy Roundtable brought together experts, scholars and practitioners who are well versed in the field of consumer rights and regulatory issues in key sectors like electricity, telecom, water, bus transport, healthcare, etc. The purpose of the discourse was to set an action agenda and bring the Ghanaian consumer issue to the forefront of policy discussions amongst the relevant government, civil and business organizations.