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ASSESSMENT OF THE ROLE OF THE FCCPC IN THE REGULATION OF SALES OF GOODS IN NIGERIA
Diverse countries have implemented competition laws and created pro-competitive policies to fulfill the varied requirements of society, as the effect of an anti-competitive regime has far-reaching consequences on society. This article gives an insight on the role of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) in the regulation of sale of goods in Nigeria. The focal point is to examine the Commission's mandate, which includes fostering fair competition, protecting consumers' rights and enforcing compliance with relevant laws and regulations while also noting the challenges the FCCPC is faced with in carrying out its mission. Special considerations will be had to competition laws in Nigeria as well as competition laws in other jurisdiction.
Sale of goods involves the buying and selling of goods which can be done through various channels. It is a crucial aspect of any economy, and the Nigerian economy is no exception. This is because it contributes to the growth and development of industries and businesses in the country. In pursuance to ensuring fair competition and protecting consumers rights, the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) was established. The FCCPC is a regulatory body with a mandate to promote fair competition, protect consumers’ rights, and ensure compliance with relevant laws and regulations. The commission’s efforts go beyond enforcement, as it also provides education and advocacy programs that empower consumers with knowledge and skills to make informed decisions. Furthermore, it provides a platform for consumers to lodge complaints and seek redress for any harm suffered. This paper provides an overview of the FCCPC's function, discusses its functions, highlights the challenges faced by the FCCPC while also incorporating statutes and case laws.
The Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act (FCCPA) is the primary legislation that governs and protects the rights of consumers in Nigeria. The FCCPA established the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) by virtue of Section 3 of the Act. The Commission is charged with the core responsibility of fostering fair competition and protecting consumers' rights.
THE ROLE OF FCCPC IN THE REGULATION OF SALES OF GOODS IN NIGERIA
The FCCPC is saddled with numerous functions. Section 17 of the FCCPA makes provision for the functions of the FCCPC . A summary explanation of some the commission's roles in regulating sales of goods will be provided below, thus;
1. Enforcement of consumer protection laws: In Nigeria, the FCCPC is charged with enforcing consumer protection regulations. These rules prevent customers from a variety of unfair trade practices, including false advertising, deceptive pricing and other forms of consumer exploitation. The FCCPC has the power and authority to examine complaints about such practices and to prosecute enterprises that are in violation of consumer protection regulations.
2. Consumer education and public awareness : the FCCPC educates the public about their rights and obligations as consumers and gives information about how to file complaints or seek remedy in the event of a disagreement. This can be achieved through conducting public awareness campaigns and offering resources such as consumer guides and educational materials. The commission also provides information on product safety, consumer complaints, and other consumer protection issues.
3. Investigation and Prosecution: businesses who engage in anti-competitive or unfair trade practices, such as price fixing or monopolistic behaviour, can be investigated and prosecuted by the FCCPC. This involves investigating alleged violations of competition rules and initiating enforcement action against companies found to have engaged in anti-competitive behaviour. Additionally, the commission has the authority to impose punishment on enterprises that engage in these actions, such as fines and other penalties.
4. Promotion of fair competition: by guaranteeing that businesses compete on an even playing field and that no one company or group of companies dominates the market to the disadvantage of consumers, the FCCPC fosters market competition . Lack of competition regulation creates outright dominance of a few players in some industries. For example, Dstv Nigeria has monopolized the market by controlling pricing mechanisms. By repeating raising what most people see to be exorbitant subscription costs, the corporation has over time oppressed consumers. Between 2009 and 2017, prices have increase 8 times . The commission acts like a watchdog for signs of anti-competitive conduct and take steps to stop it.
5. Product quality control: the Commission monitors the quality of goods sold in Nigeria to make sure they adhere to the guidelines established by the authorities. To do this, tests and inspections must be carried out to check faults or other problems that could endanger consumers. In NB PLC V AUDU (2009) Per OMOLEYE JCA said thus; “a manufacturer of products owes the consumers of his products duty of care in ensuring that such products reach the ultimate consumer in the good form in which the products left him with no reasonable possibility of intermediate examination, and with the knowledge that the absence of reasonable care in the preparation or putting up of the products will result in an injury to the consumer’s life or property. This principle of law was laid down in the locus classicus case of Donoghue v Stevenson” . Where a manufacturer or distributor is in default of this requirement the FCCPC can impose sanctions. The commission makes sure that all items marketed in Nigeria adhere to the safety requirements and that customers are shielded from substandard goods. To ensure safety of goods and compliance with applicable legislation, the commission closely collaborates with other regulatory organizations. The commission also observe the prices of goods sold in Nigeria to confirm that consumers are not overcharged.
COMPETITION LAWS IN NIGERIA
According to Cambridge Dictionary , competition laws are “the laws that are intended to make sure that there is fair competition between businesses, for example by rules to control monopolies”. Consumer protection and economic confidence are enhanced by competition laws. This attracts investors and entrepreneurs because the market is deem fair and transparent. The benefit of regulating competition is that nations that do so often produce more goods and services per capita than non-regulatory nations. Nigeria's competition law framework has not been adequate due to its complexity and economic size. However, the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act is a national competition law enacted in 2018. The importance of competition regulation cannot be overstated. Where there is a a lack of competition regulation, a few businesses completely dominate certain industries. For instance, Dangote Cement is said to have forced the market cement price up in 2017. This made other cement producers raised their prices as well, which had an impact on customers subsequently by raising its (Dangote) costs .
COMPETITION LAWS IN OTHER JURISDICTIONS
Just as Nigeria have competition laws to ensure fair competition and protect consumer goods, other jurisdictions also have enacted competition laws to meet the many needs of their societies. Taking the US as an example, The Sherman Anti-trust Act 1890 was the first act passed by the US Congress to put a measure to interstate commerce and outlaw monopoly in the US economy . It was however replaced with the Clayton Antitrust Act 1914. The Clayton Antitrust Act holds same mandate with the former act but made amendments which extends its provisions to parts the former act could not cover or control. This Act has similar aims with the FCCPA as both laws are designed to ensure fair competition, price control, prosecution of companies in violation of competition laws etc. A typical example of a monopoly in the US was the Standard Oil Company established Justice Hand said that “immunity from competition is a narcotic" . This dictum can be interpreted to mean that when businesses have a monopoly, they will exploit and violate market fairness and go to whatever extent to maintain that status.
The UK competition Law is contained in the Competition Act 1998 and is policed by the Competition Market Authority (CMA). It is designed to prevent anti-competitive agreements and abuse of a dominant market position. The CMA also share similar objectives with the FCCPA .
CHALLENGES FACED BY THE FCCPC
The FCCPC in pursuance of its mandate, among other things forbids unethical business practices that are likely to stifle competition and result in greater costs, a decline in service quality or fewer innovations. However, the FCCPC's effectiveness, may be impacted by some factors.
One of the challenges faced by the FCCPC is political interference. The commission is under the management of the minister of trade. As a political official overseeing the commission, he can meddle with the affairs of the commission and this can question the independence of the commission.
Another challenge faced by the FCCPC is shortage of professionals who are knowledge in competition laws. Where staffs employed lack the required knowledge, there won’t be effective implementation of the FCCPA. Other challenges include issue of funding, slow judicial system in Nigeria, limited resources etc.
In summary, the FCCPC is a regulatory agency that has had a considerable and significant impact on Nigerian sale of goods, with ensuring that competition laws are upheld. The importance of the commission in fostering fair competition, defending consumers’ rights and ensuring businesses follow relevant laws and regulations cannot be over emphasized. The FCCPC’s actions; by preventing monopolies and other anti-competitive behaviors, have enhanced consumer trust in the Nigerian market, which has benefited the economy. The mandate of the commission is crucial to creating an environment that allows businesses to thrive and consumers to reap the benefits of a competitive market.
The FCCPC in the course of achieving its mandate is however faced with certain challenges that reduces its effectiveness. In order to boost the commission’s ability to control the sale of goods in Nigeria, it is imperative to raise public awareness about the FCCPC and its responsibilities. This can be realized by running targeted public campaigns to inform the populace about their rights as consumers and the value of fair competition in the market. The FCCPC should endeavour to also make the commission independent from the Minister of Trade in order to reduce the latter’s interference with the affairs of the commission. Furthermore, in order to guarantee that investigations are carried out quickly and effectively, the FCCPC should also endeavour to streamline its processes and procedures. The commission should ensure the recruitment process of members are strict to ensure only professionals in competition laws are employed. Finally, the commission should collaborate with other regulatory organizations such as CBN, NCC, NERC, NAFDAC, SON, NCAA etc to ensure a productive dispensation of competitive policy in Nigeria .
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