Ministry raises awareness on consumer rights

Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry (MITI) last week commemorated World Consumers Rights Day in an effort to raise awareness about consumer privileges.
Speaking at the commemoration in Gaborone last week, Deputy Director at the Department of Trade and Consumer Affairs Kemmonye Ketsile said that the event highlights areas where there is inadequate consumer protection.
She further said that the theme of the commemoration is very significant as it encourages Batswana to embrace new technology adding that technology has become a driving force to the world’s economy.
The theme of this year’s commemoration was “Making digital market places fairer’’.
Ketsile explained that the Consumer Rights Day was first commemorated in Botswana in 1992 as consumers joined together in solidarity to reflect on challenges they face in the market place. She stressed that the platform creates an opportunity for stakeholders to share ideas on how best to meet the digital market fair for consumers.
She stated that businesses will sensitize consumers on different services offered online, while regulators will share which laws are in place to protect both the seller and the consumer from unsecured online business portals.
She explained that government adopted the national information communications technology policy dubbed Maitlamo Policy in 2007. The policy provides a clear roadmap with focus on e-commerce and will eventually increase the opportunity for Batswana to participate in the global market.
In 2014 parliament enacted the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act which provides for facilitation and regulation of e-commerce and will provide for protection of consumers through regulating e-commerce retailers and service providers.
According to Ketsile, it covers aspects such as full closure of food retailers by suppliers, sufficient description of goods and services offered and clears payment systems.
Botswana is currently developing the national e-commerce strategy which will promote the diffusion and the use of electronic commerce across all sectors of the economy- and to increase efficiency and wealth generation.
However, Ketsile said that the digital market has brought challenges that consumers would not encounter when buying offline such as unclear management systems, lack of information or differentiation of a genuine website from a bogus one.
She also said that there are issues relating to cyber crime where consumers experienced leakage of personal data. She added that there is lack of transparency in disclosing product information, misleading advertising and online banking fraud.
Concerted efforts are needed where stakeholders take it upon themselves to ensure that consumers are not disadvantaged through the use of ICTs by providing technological services that are fair, accessible and affordable- Ketsile said.