Parliament’s passage of the Consumer Protection Bill 2011 has heralded a new dawn for Kenya’s battered customers.
The passage came only a few hours after the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) blocked fake phones amid an outcry for compensation by helpless consumers.
On the brighter side, Kenya has joined the prestigious list of African countries with consumer law.
Kenya is expected to henceforth follow in the tracks of other trailblazers on consumer protection such as the UK, US, and Brazil.
The need for specific regulations and guidelines and public education around the law-in-waiting is more urgent than ever before.
I remember convening the first formal consumer stakeholders’ meeting on August 10, 2006 at Nairobi’s Kenya Comfort Hotel. It is a pity that then inspirational Prof Michael Chelogoy is not alive to celebrate with me the fruits of our joint labour.
Gem MP Jakoyo Midiwo introduced me to Prof Chelogoy in early 2006. The three of us worked behind the scenes with several colleagues, MPs, and other stakeholders to realise the Consumer Protection Bill, 2007.
Even after its publication, the Bill ran into many hurdles — first it was overtaken by events given the long queue in Parliament.
Second, a private member’s Bill is given less preference when competing with government bills for the House Business Committee’s attention.
Such a Bill was equally barred from occasioning additional expenditure of public funds. As fate would have it, the Bill was met with considerable resistance from the then Minister for Trade and Industry.
The Bill will protect consumers on a wide range of issues and radically transform how marketing and advertisements will be done.
In a nutshell, it calls for respect for the consumer and business transactions. Suppliers of services and goods will have to warrant that the goods and services are of acceptable and reasonable quality.
Unfair business practices will have to go or risk swift class action suits.
A national consumer advisory committee will be set up to, among other issues, publish research-based state of consumer protection annual reports.I dedicate the consumer Bill to all those voiceless and faceless victims of consumer injustices.