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Caution needed on festivity promotions

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The Competition and Fair Trading Commission (CFTC) has asked Malawians to safeguard their rights during the festivities by exercising caution with any festive season offers or promotions as they might be misleading or deceptive.

CFTC says during Christmas and New Year celebrations, some traders will try to take advantage of the season to sell more by exploiting unsuspecting consumers.

According to CFTC, some of the most common abusive trends include fraudulent, false and misleading advertising.

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Putting up adverts that directly or indirectly lead consumers to misunderstand or confuse the price of offered goods or services is against provisions of the Consumer Protection Act.

Director of Consumer Welfare and Education at CFTC, Lewis Kulisewa, said during these annual celebrations, other traders also claim that their products have certain approval ratings or quality characteristics or benefits which they don’t actually have.

According to Kulisewa, some traders publish advertisements carrying some information in fine print which contradicts the overall message of the advertisement.

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“Some shops will advertise massive discounts, for instance, that a pair of shoes was at K25,000 and is now K15,000, when the shop never sold the product at K25, 000.

“In some cases, the information in fine print is contained in what are called ‘terms and conditions’ or ‘Ts and Cs’. For example, if an advertisement states that a product is ‘free’ but the fine print indicates that some payment must be made, the advertisement is likely to be misleading,” he said.

Kulisewa further said Malawi’s consumer protection laws provide that an advertiser must ensure that an advertisement conforms to rules of decency, sincerity and truth; and that advertisers do not exploit superstition, ignorance or fear

“It is, therefore, important that traders should refrain from making statements that are incorrect or likely to create a false impression. This is ethical behaviour that rational traders would want to display as millions of consumers across the world celebrate Christmas, the birth of our Lord and Saviour.

In an earlier interview, CFTC Executive Director, Wezi Malonda, said traders have an obligation to prevent any form of consumer harm and that those found in breach are guilty of fraud.

“According to the Consumer Protection Act, misleading advertising includes any type of business information or communication which can directly or indirectly, expressly or by omission, lead a consumer to mistake, misunderstand or confuse the price of the offered goods or services.

“To determine whether an advert is misleading or deceptive, the Commission considers if the advert contains a false statement of fact; conceals or leave out important facts; promises to do something but without any intention of carrying it out; or creates a false impression even if everything stated in it maybe literally true,” she said.

She said it remains mandatory for advertisers to provide consumers with true information on the goods being sold and that where consumers feel that their rights have been violated, they have a right to redress.

“This includes the right to full, timely, adequate and prompt compensation for damages suffered by a consumer which are attributed to a supplier or trader and we would like to remind traders of their obligations which include taking necessary and appropriate measures to prevent any form of consumer harm.

“It is important for traders to ensure that their goods and supply comply with minimum consumer safety standards. In particular food supplies must have correct ingredients, measures or weights and proper labels,” she said.

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