Consumer Protection – Explanatory Note
The Regulations protect consumers in the COMESA region against false or misleading presentation of goods and services, unconscionable conduct,
poor safety standards and unsafe goods.
False or Misleading Representation
The Regulations prohibit misleading and deceptive conduct, particularly in advertising and selling. If purchasers are to make informed purchasing decisions, information concerning goods and services must be accurate, relevant and useable.
The unconscionable conduct provisions in the Regulations are directed towards prohibiting grossly unfair conduct – whether in the supply or acquisition of goods and services. The Regulations includes guidelines as to what would be considered unconscionable so that the circumstance of the conduct can be taken into account.
Product Safety Standards and Unsafe Goods
Experience within the region and worldwide has shown that even in the most competitive markets unsafe products can appear in the short run, and that the harm they cause would almost always be unacceptable to the affected consumers, their communities and governments.
Businesses who have been supplying safe goods, furthermore, are often unfairly harmed when unsafe goods enter the market because consumers may be unsure of whose goods they can trust. Also the ability to win export orders will be most difficult if a country’s reputation is for unsafe goods.
The Regulations therefore empowers the COMESA Competition Commission to set safety standards to ensure minimum safety requirements for particular goods, set information standards to ensure minimum disclosure requirements for particular goods, issue warning notices to the public about dangerous goods, and recall dangerous goods.
Investigations and Enforcement
The business community plays an important role in the investigations activities of the Commission, not only in bringing to the attention of the Commission anti-competitive practices and conduct but also in supplying the Commission with the necessary information to make well-informed decisions.
The principles of natural justice, which the Commission is obliged to adhere to in conducting its investigations, are meant to fully protect the interests of the business community. Under the principle of natural justice, all reasonable steps are taken to ensure that every person whose interests are likely to be affected by the outcome of the investigation is given an adequate opportunity to make representations in the matter.
The Commission has powers to investigate undertakings whose business activities appreciably restrain competition within the COMESA region. Any person may request a Commission investigation where he or she has reason to believe that activity by an undertaking located in a Member State has the effect, or is likely to have the effect, of restricting competition in the Common Market.
Remedial actions taken by the Commission on any anti-competitive practice or conduct may include:
Ordering the termination or nullification on anti-competitive business practices and conduct
Direct the enterprise to cease and desist form anti-competitive conduct and to take such steps as it believes may be necessary to overcome the effects of abuse of its dominant position in the market, or any other business conduct inconsistent with the principles as set out in the Regulations
Order payment of compensation to persons affected
Impose fines for breaches of the provisions of the Regulations
In the case of mergers and acquisitions, the Commission may make any one or more of the following orders if it is satisfied that the merger will be contrary to the public interest:
- Declaring the merger unlawful
- Prohibiting or restricting the acquisitions of assets if the acquisition is likely, in the Commission’s opinion, to lead to a merger
- Requiring the dissolution of any organisation or association where the Commission is satisfied that the person is concerned in or is a party to a merger
- Requiring that, if a merger takes place, certain prohibitions or restrictions with regard to the manner in which business is carried on is specified
- Generally making such provisions as is reasonably necessary to terminate or prevent the merger or alleviate its effects
*Refer to Part 5 of the COMESA Competition Regulations for further reference
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