Consumer Protection – What is UNBS doing?
- Monday, 04 March 2013
Fighting of substandard goods on the market requires a concerted effort by all stakeholders including the media as part of social responsibility. UNBS as the mandated lead agency will provide the leadership required including coming up with innovative mechanisms to address this issue. Substandard goods fall short of the minimum set standards to protect the health and safety of the consumers, the environment and prevention of fraudulent practices. To date UNBS has developed over 600 compulsory standards that must be enforced. The standards fall in the category of: Agriculture& Food products, Electro technology products, Building materials, Consumer products and chemical products (www.unbs.go.ug).
Why should Government (UNBS) and the consumer be concerned with substandard goods?
- Consumption of substandard goods such as food, beverages, and cosmetics could lead to illness and at times death (public health compromised).
- Electrical products that do not meet standards could cause fires destroying property and lives thus endangering the safety of people and their properties. Substandard shoes do not last long while in use thus cheating the buyer and causing more poverty for the customer.
- Value for money: Buying cheap is always expensive as the product will not perform according to customer’s expectation as it will have a shorter life requiring you to buy the same product over and over leading to higher levels of poverty and squandering of national resources.
- When you have substandard cheap products on the market (normally a result of dumping), they compete with quality products on the market and cause unfair competition and damage the environment. This affects local industries to the extent that they lose business and jobs for Ugandans.
- Both foreign and domestic investments and trade are stifled because of unfair competition posed by sale of substandard goods.
What does the existing law say?
Section 21 (1) of UNBS Act (cap 327 of the laws of Uganda) states:
“No person shall import, distribute, manufacture, sell or have in his or her possession or control for sale or distribution any commodity for which a compulsory standard specification has been declared unless the commodity conforms to the compulsory standard specification”. Section 26 (2) states that: “Any person who contravenes section 21(1) commits an offence”.
So, what is UNBS doing?
UNBS has set a 5 point programme as focal point for its service delivery. These are also enshrined in the UNBS strategic plan 2012-17:
- Awareness on quality and safety standards
- Reduce substandard goods on Ugandan market.
- Revamp the UNBS Corporate image
- Support to MSME to access national and regional markets
- Strengthening UNBS internal service delivery systems.
Substandard goods on the market are the biggest challenge for UNBS at the moment. The root cause of these substandard goods is traced to greedy business people who want to make money through fraud, ignorance of unsuspecting consumers at any costs including unfortunately compromising people’s lives. The substandard goods on the market are therefore a result of:
- Imports largely from Asia especially Dubai and China (50-60%) including illicit trade;
- Locally manufactured goods especially from the informal sector and small enterprises (20-25%);
- Product adulteration by criminals who are after money in complete disregard to safety and health of people (10-15%); and
- Expired products that are at times relabelled (about 5%).
UNBS strategies to reduce substandard goods on the market
UNBS has come up with a number of strategies to reduce substandard goods on the market. These include:
a) Introduction of pre-export verification of conformity to standards (PVoC) where goods are inspected in the country of origin. Unfortunately the people who largely benefit from importing substandard goods have resisted this to date and turned political. UNBS is working to ensure that this programme that has been tested elsewhere comes in effect 1st June 2013.
b) Increased awareness of both consumers and business community in investing in quality and its benefits. A monthly program is undertaken by UNBS to this effect throughout the country. A UNBS Quality Club (face book page) will also be launched in the near future where we encourage business communities and individuals to become members and advocate for a quality culture in the country.
c) Collaboration with the Media, Local authorities, the Police and other Government departments is also being undertaken to ensure that issues of standard are included in their programmes in area of enforcement and awareness and training of SMEs.
d) Amendment of UNBS Act that will impose deterrent penalties of offenders who are found violating the law. Enforcement of the law and prosecution of offenders will be increased when Parliament passes the amendments.
e) A market surveillance team has been put in place to traverse the country to ensure that expired goods are removed from the shelves and destroyed and sensitisation on quality standards are is also undertaken through radio presentations.
f) Training and provision of technical advice to MSMEs to ensure that they put on the market standard complying goods. An SME desk has been set up at UNBS and has so far trained over 370 enterprises in the country and many are nearing certification of their goods.
g) UNBS is in constant engagement with Government to increase on its budget so as to increase staff as well as provide logistical support to reduce substandard goods on the market and implement its strategic plan.
The above measures when fully implemented should see a drastic reduction of substandard goods on the Ugandan market. To report any complaint call UNBS toll free line 0800 133 133