During the 7th meeting of the SADC Technical Committee on Competition and Consumer Policy and Law held in Gaborone on 26 May 2016, SADC Competition Authorities signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Inter - Agency cooperation in competition policy, law and enforcement. This was a landmark development, a culmination of a consultative process which commenced in July 2015 following the resolution of the SADC Technical Committee on Competition and Consumer Policy and Law made at its Extra Ordinary meeting in July 2015 to develop an MOU on Inter - Agency cooperation.
The signing of this MOU is a historic event that marks an important milestone in the implementation of the Declaration on Regional Cooperation in Competition and Consumer Policies adopted by SADC Heads of State and Government in 2009. Over the years, the Declaration facilitated provision of capacity building and technical assistance to Member States in support of competition policy development and implementation. The region now boasts of ten Member States with operational competition authorities. The remaining five Member States are at different stages in the development of their respective competition legislation.
The academia plays a crucial role in providing information that influences public policies as well as consumer choices at national and international level, it has been said.
The sentiments were made by CFTC Executive Director Mrs Charlotte Wezi Malonda when she presented a Competition Law lecture at the Malawi Adventist University's Lakeview campus in Ntcheu.
During the lecture, which was attended by over 340 students including the University’s Assistant Registrar and some lecturers, Malonda provided an overview of competition law in Malawi. Some of the key issues covered in the lecture included the regulatory, investigative and adjudicative roles of the Commission.
Participants to the Competition Law Lecture
Malonda underlined the need for university students to actively participate in the enforcement of competition and consumer protection law as this was beneficial for economic growth, efficiency and consumer welfare.
“Academic institutions provide think tanks, which assist in building robust enforcement systems, and each one of us must take an interest in understanding how competition and consumer protection enforcement plays a role in poverty alleviation and development of our nation”.
The Competition Law lectures are an innovation by the Competition and Fair Trading Commission aimed at promoting voluntary compliance with the Competition and Fair Trading Act (CFTA) and empowering consumers with confidence to report unfair trading practices.
The Commission has already held competition law lectures at the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Luanar), Chancellor College, Mzuzu University, Malawi Polytechnic and Blantyre International University.
Participants to the Strategic Plan launch
The Ministry of Industry and Trade has commended the Competition and Fair Trading Commission for developing a five year strategic plan and service delivery charter.
The remarks were made by Dr Joseph Mkandawire, who is Director of Finance and Administration in the Ministry, during the official unveiling of the CFTC strategic plan, service charter and new logo on 29th March 2016 at Sunbird Capital Hotel.
Mkandawire congratulated the CFTC for taking a bold step to formulate and launch the plan which defines the strategic direction for the next five years. He said:
“I believe that through this strategic plan, the CFTC will be able to fulfill its mandate and ensure that it effectively contributes to the attainment of the country's wider development goals such as Vision 2020, National Export Strategy, Buy Malawi Strategy and the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy II (MGDS II) among others.
KNOWLEDGE, ATTITUDES AND PERCEPTIONS STUDY ON ENFORCEMENT OF COMPETITION AND CONSUMER PROTECTION IN MALAWI
The Competition and Fair Trading Commission has budgeted for some money to undertake a Knowledge, Attitudes and Perceptions (KAP) survey on the enforcement of competition and consumer protection laws in Malawi.
The survey will document information available including gaps on the knowledge, attitudes and perceptions of consumers, the business community and other key stakeholders in relation to different aspects of competition and consumer protection law enforcement in Malawi. The findings of this study will be used to develop a new advocacy and communication strategy for the Commission
In view of this, the Commission is seeking technical and technical proposals from eligible consulting firms or individuals to carry out a Knowledge, Attitudes and Perceptions (KAP) survey on the enforcement of competition and consumer protection laws in Malawi.
Interested consultants are invited to request a copy of the detailed Terms of Reference (TORs) for the study, by contacting the Commission on the address below. The TORs can also be downloaded from the CFTC website: www.cftc.mw.
All technical and financial proposals clearly labeled “Consultancy to Conduct a KAP Survey for CFTC” should be submitted to the following address by Friday 06 May 2016.
The Competition and Fair Trading Commission, a government autonomous agency mandated to safeguard competition and protect consumers from unfair trading practices has said it is concerned with the rise in consumer rights violations as shown by the increase complaints they have received.
Speaking in Balaka on Tuesday during commemoration of the World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD) under the theme ‘Consumer Justice Now’, CFTC Executive Director, Charlotte Wezi Malonda said since July last year, the Commission has received over 90 consumer rights violation complaints.
“We are aware that there more consumer rights violations that go undetected and therefore are not reported to the Commission. We therefore, treat the rising number of consumer violation cases being reported to the Commission as a tip of an iceberg which in essence is signaling how serious the issue of consumer rights violation is on the ground.
“Consumers create effective demand that induces productive sectors of the economy. Without consumers, there would be no production in the economy. This is the reason why we must join hands and lobby tirelessly for consumer justice,” said Malonda.
Malonda added that consumer justice would be in vain if consumers themselves do not take a lead in safeguarding their rights.
In his remarks, Balaka District Commissioner, Rodrick Mateauma noted that town councils including Balaka have a responsibility to work along measures paralleling those of the Government as well as plan and execute measures concerning consumer protection.
“Here in Balaka, we have put in place measures including inspection of businesses premises whose aim is to ensure that consumers are protected from unscrupulous traders,” said Mateauma.
He added that the aim of consumer protection is to provide assistance to final consumers in their market transactions either through preventing or remedying market failures which the council has been implementing.
He however called on local traders to uphold principles of consumer protection because everyone is a consumer in one way or the other.
The main events to commemorate the Day in Malawi included a Consumers' Parade under the theme ‘Consumer Justice Now’ held in Balaka. Other activities also included drama, music, poetry, traditional dances, speeches and a competitive football match between local rivals.
The WCRD falls on 15th March of every year and is an annual occasion for celebration and solidarity within the international consumer movement on which participants observe the day by promoting the basic rights of all consumers, demanding that those rights are respected and protected.
Participants to the MLS Annual Conference
The Vice President of the Republic of Malawi, Dr Saulos Chilima has said financial institutions that abuse consumers including those that do not disclose their terms in written contracts should be taken to task.
Speaking during the official opening of the 2016 Malawi Law Society (MLS) annual conference, which was co-funded by the Competition and Fair Trading Commission, under the theme ‘Regulation of Financial institutions and the protection of consumers of financial services’, Chilima said he was impressed with this year’s theme because the government is implementing reforms in the financial sector.
“It is important to discuss emerging issues in the country. Financial institutions should disclose in written contracts rates, commissions and charges which they impose on consumers,” said Chilima.
The MLS Annual Conference is a forum in which the country’s lawyers come together to discuss papers and pertinent issues that affect their profession and the economy.
Presenting a paper on during the conference on regulating financial institutions and protecting consumer rights: synergies and conflicts, CFTC ExecutiveDirector, Charlotte Wezi Malonda said the financial sector is one of the key sectors that was liberalised consequently increasing the number of players.
“Studies that have been conducted in the sector have shown that Malawi has one of the highest spreads between lending rates and deposits interest rates in the region while commercial banks rake in huge profits. The studies have attributed this to limited competition among the players. Concerns have also been raised regarding the pricing of products in the banking industry. For example, the difference in interest rates and bank charges among the various banks has always been marginal, a phenomenon which has raised public concerns about possible collusion among the players,” said Malonda.
Speaking during his closing remarks, MLS President, John Suzi-Banda thanked CFTC for supporting the conference.
“It is difficult for lawyers to approach these institutions to ask for money for conferences like these because we normally charge them for services we provide,” said Suzi-Banda.
The Competition and Fair Trading Commission (CFTC) on February 15 2016 launched competition and consumer protection clubs for secondary schools in Malawi at a function held at Mponela in Dowa.
The clubs are aimed at inculcating competition and consumer protection values in the younger generation which is key in the overall consumer protection objectives in Malawi.
Speaking during a Teachers' Colloquium to mark the launch of the school clubs, CFTC Executive Director, Charlotte Wezi Malonda observed that the Commission’s expectation is that through this initiative, students will gain basic knowledge of the Competition and Fair Trading Act and the functions of the Commission.
“These clubs will be disseminating information about the benefits of competition policy to consumer welfare. In turn, this will help create an informed population. The consequential effect of this initiative will be improved efficiency on the market, as well as compliance with consumer protection requirements,” said Malonda.
In their remarks, Education Officer from the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, Ms Melayi Banda thanked the Commission for this initiative which she noted that it will enlighten not only the students, but also the rest of the teachers and education officials.
The launch was attended by over fifty (50) officials from the Central Eastern Division of the Ministry of Education who included Head Teachers, Deputy Head Teachers, Senior Teachers and other officials from the Inspectorate Division of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology.
At the end of the Colloquium, participating Teachers agreed to come up with detailed action plans for the Clubs.
It is expected that school clubs for the Shire Highlands Division and the Northern Division will be launched in April 2016.
The Competition and Fair Trading Commission (CFTC), Malawi’s competition authority, on February 18 2016 delivered a public lecture on competition and consumer protection at Chancellor College in Zomba.
The lecture at Chancol, one of the elite colleges in Malawi which has produced most of the countries lawyers and economists, is part of a series of public lectures targeting tertiary institutions.
Among other issues, the lecture focused on regulatory role of the Commission, CFTC’s investigative function, the adjudicative role of its Commissioners and penalties under the Competition and Fair Trading Act (CFTA).
Speaking during the lecture, CFTC Executive Director, Charlotte Wezi Malonda said the CFTA is an Act which aims to encourage competition in the economy by prohibiting anti-competitive trade practices and to protect consumer welfare.
“The overall function of the Commission is to regulate, monitor, control and prevent acts or behaviour which are likely to adversely affect competition and fair trading in Malawi,” Said Malonda.
She added that the authority also carries out investigations on its own initiative or based on complaints, provides advisory role on rights and duties, educates consumers and undertakes market studies.
Among others, the students present during the lecture were interested to know how the Commission acts against unfair trading practices in rural areas. The students were also interested to know how the CFTC looks at the banning of sachets of alcohol.
Responding to the questions, Malonda said the Commission has a number of programmes that are aimed at people living in rural areas including inspections, business clinics and surgeries and radio programmes. She also pointed out that consumer protection laws are meant to protect consumers from products that are harmful to their health including alcohol sachets.
The public lecture was organised in conjunction with Let’s Develop Malawi (LEDEMA) and was attended by over 150 students. LEDEMA is a student body that promotes a spirit of entrepreneurship amongst students