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We must create level ground in competition

23rd November 2012
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Editorial Cartoon

Since Tanzania liberalised its economy, consumers have witnessed a sudden flood of goods and services in every sector, many elbowing out local products.

While the move challenged internal producers and providers of services, to cut costs in order to survive, it has also brought to the fore a number of weaknesses in the way the freeing of the market was implemented.

Apparently what the policy makers focused on most was the effect of price competition on satisfying consumers as if it was the only determinant.

It is true that price does play a major role in what one decides to buy, but it is also true that consumers are now talking more and more about value for money, that is quality.

This development is a result of the painful experience that Tanzanian consumers went through from the initial wave of the market flood, which saw, quality goods slump in sales while counterfeits did roaring business.

Obviously as counterfeits go, their utility was short lived, if not negative, as in the case of medicines which in many cases failed to treat the relevant diseases or compromised the health of the consumer further.

Thus the consumers learned the hard way that a great economic injustice was being visited on them, but found no avenue to redeem their losses, until the Tanzania Fair Competition Commission was established to fight trade abuses.

The task has not been easy as shown by the continued flow of counterfeit goods into the Tanzanian market.

Research conducted in the country some time back indicated that counterfeits constitute about 38 per cent of all the products imported into the country, adversely affecting both consumers and the economy.

The commission must keep up the pressure on those who engage in not only bringing counterfeit goods into the country, but all those who abuse consumer lives and welfare by using dirty tricks to gain in the market.

As far as the campaign against the counterfeits goes, the question that the FCC must ponder is whether it can be sustained by the current approach of pouncing on the products already on sale.

The Commission is following the law which clearly states that businessmen found in possession of counterfeits are subject to “offence-compounding procedure” which entails paying applicable fines and the destruction costs.

Brand owners are also being asked to step up awareness programmes for the business community, which is responsible for selling the goods to end-consumers, by especially enabling them to tell the difference between genuine and counterfeit goods.

The retailers on whom the full wrath of the FCC seems to fall most of the time are arguing that they purchase their goods from agents in various areas, making it difficult for them to identify easily whether such products are counterfeits.

The issue that many want addressed is the creation of the capacity to ensure counterfeit goods do not cross entry points into the Tanzanian market.

We think that the government and the business community are duty bound to seriously address the issue of fair competition practices, if the country is really to prosper and everyone engaged in a lawful economic activity is fairly compensated.

SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN