Cofek SG Stephen Mutoro and Infotrak CEO Angela Ambitho as research findings were released
On March 26, 2010 Consumers Federation of Kenya (Cofek) was registered as the apex and only Federation of consumers in Kenya. Today, we are 8 years old.
As we look back, with pride, and though it has been no walk in the park - Cofek is credited with many achievements. We are happy that consumer rights are constitutional rights under Article 46.
We will forever be grateful to former President Mwai Kibaki for assenting into law, the Consumer Protection Act 2012 in December 2013. On March 14, 2014 then Minister for Trade Moses Wetang'ula operationalized the Act.
Like other consumer organizations globally, Cofek is an advocacy federation that seek to protect people from corporate abuse like unsafe products, predatory lending, false advertising and pollution, among others.
Cofek has established close links with key regulatory bodies such as Communications Authority, Kenya Bureau of Standards, Central Bank of Kenya, Biosafety Authority, Kenya Civil Aviation Authority, Water Services Regulatory Board, Energy Regulatory Commission, KEPHIS, among others.
Cofek has previously applied many strategies - protests, litigation, campaigning and or lobbying. Cofek operates as more general consumer watchdog. Our equivalent is Consumers' Association in the UK, Consumers Federation of Australia, IDEC of Brazil, and many others in the US, India, Europe, Africa and Asia.
Cofek has continually, through social media pages, been providing consumers useful information through independent comparative surveys or test of products or services, involving different manufacturers or companies and service providers.
We have been keen on banking, communications, energy, transport and food safety among other subjects. On food safety, we are keen to see the country adopt the current standards on mandatory labelling as well as averting deceptive advertising.
Cofek aims at entrenching and well-enforced consumer rights in Kenya and her trade partners. We are keen to disseminate market information, and prohibiting specific acts or practices, or by promoting competitive forces in the markets which directly or indirectly affect consumers on transport, electricity, communications,among others.
As we mark our 8th anniversary, we urge Kenyan consumers to appreciate that consumer protection begins and ends with them. As an informed consumer lobby, we are not for price controls. But in cases, where the red line of decency and ethical business has been crossed for example banking and energy sector - we will support.
We have had the worst ever public outcry on the excessive price of electricity worsened by irregular billing that arise from estimated readings. We have directly engaged with Energy Cabinet Secretary Mr Charles Keter who has been receptive and cooperative.
In addition, we have formally requested the Kenya Power to allow our team of experts access to their new billing system to ascertain if theirs have been addressed. We have separately requested the Auditor General to undertake a special audit of the same especially on recoverability or otherwise of the infamous Sh10.1 from electricity consumers.
On banking, we have petitioned the government not to be armtwisted by the IMF on swift removal of interest caps law without addressing the reasons that necessitated it. We have equally urged business editors of mainstream media to avoid churning skewed and partisan single-perspective misleading information to the public.
On food safety, and we are grateful the Senate is discussing the Food Security Bill, we intend to have the aspect of Food Safety introduced into the Bill. Our view is that its time Kenya establishes a Food and Drugs Authority with less control from Government.
Its time Kenya manages the increasing level of anti-bacterial drugs in poultry and beef. This issue has not be given the weight it deserves by government. Same applies to high radioactive substances in fresh vegetables and fruits especially cases of urban farming on sewage and other wastes.
The aspect of accelerated food ripening especially in fruits must be addressed by complacent public health officers at the Counties. This is more pronounced in bananas.
We have seen increasing cases in which meat is treated with dangerous chemicals to make it appear fresh and usable over a reasonable period. Consumers must beware. They must keen to differentiate beef treated with chemicals and that which is fresh. Same applies to non-inspected meat.
On transport, we are keenly watching the developments are the Nairobi Metropolitan Transport Authority (Namata) to see how well the 5 Counties especially Nairobi could decongest their respective CBDs. Investment in this sector will need to be informed by research and public participation.
On health, Cofek wants to see the Health Staff Service Commission put in place to address hiring and welfare of doctors and nurses even when they will be serving at the Counties. We are deeply concerned at the heightened rot at the Kenyatta National Hospital. We support the Health CS move to suspend the KNH CEO and further demand that a fresh board of directors be appointed.
Still on health, the challenge of cholera at the Counties must be resolved. We are equally of the view that as presently constituted and with historical systemic challenges, the National Hospital Insurance Fund cannot and will not realize its' enormous expectations on the universal healthcare.
On governance issues, we do hope that substantive CEOs are required at both NHIF and NSSF. We hope that this will energize the new CEOs todeliver on their mandate without fear of their tenures being cut short
On online fraud and cybercrime, the number of incidents have increased. With people turning online for shopping - the online sellers have been engaging in deceptive campaign - either selling wrong items and denying consumers the right to act full compensation.
Safety of digital and or online markets require a well-thought legislation to be combined with the missing national retail market policy and legislation. The retail market turbulence that followed liquidity challenges with Nakumatt and Uchumi supermarkets have ushered in unintended consequences associated with new and foreign entrants.
Kenya's retail space, physical and or online, requires an urgent policy and legislation to avoid current exposure and vulnerability for consumers.
On collaboration with Government, Cofek remains of the view that it will continue engaging with willing government agencies in structured partnerships - without losing its' powers, immunity and privileges attendant to consumer protection.
Its on this strength that we will be hosting the first #CivilSocietyRoundTable1 with Government. We will begin with security and policing matters on the theme: Win-win for Government, Media and Civil Society relations. Interior Secretary Dr Fred Matiang'i and NPS IG Mr Joseph Boinnet will be our guests on Thursday, March 29 at the College of Insurance, South C, Nairobi