Fair Competition Commission seeks to replace courts

20Aug 2018
Henry Mwangonde
The Guardian
Fair Competition Commission seeks to replace courts

THE Fair Competition Commission (FCC) has called for a review of the law constituting it, to give it powers to hear and determine consumer complaints currently subjected to judicial proceedings.

Zaituni Kikula, head of the FCC.

Faced with a series of complaints from both consumers and producers on issues ranging from poor quality of products to imitation of well-performing brands, the commission now wants to be given powers to handle such cases to their final determination.

As of now in its mandate under the current law, the Fair Competition Act (2003) the FCC is given powers to gather information, conduct investigations and impose sanctions for practices that hinder fair competition.

It is also charged with consumer protection, for which it has a dedicated department, but adjudications of consumer-related cases is done in court and that is what the commission wants to have it changed.

Zaituni Kikula, head of the FCC Consumer Protection and Anti-Counterfeit Division said the desired legislation would elaborate on counterfeit, consumer protection issues and FCC jurisdiction.

She made the call over the weekend during a seminar to business journalists on the challenges with which the commission contends.

“Currently, when a complaint reaches a certain level, the commission can no longer proceed and everything is left to the courts,” she told participants.

She said the proposal for a radical shift in the regulatory mode needs to have a provision that considers introduction of serious legal action against enterprise officials engaged in cartel behaviour.

FCC deals with issues of anti-competitive conduct, abuse of dominance and has provision for curtailing mergers and acquisitions if the outcome is likely to create dominance in the market or lead to non-competitive behavior.

Magdalena Utouh, the FCC head of Consumer Education, listed down some of the laws protecting consumers in the country as the Fair Competition Act (2003), the Merchandise Marks Act (1963) the Standards Act (1975), the Food, Drugs and Cosmetics Act (2003) and the Weight and Measures Act (2002).

There is a challenge in implementing the laws currently as competition and consumer protection are mixed up in one law, the Fair Competition Act (2003) contrary to regulatory provisions in other countries where the two are set out in different legislative instruments.

Other challenges according to her, most people tend to confuse between the role of the commission and that of the Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS).

Areas where change is being sought relate to inclusion of vertical agreements (mergers) in the law, enumeration of conduct to be considered as misuse of market power, introducing joint or combined dominance in the Fair Competition Act.

Also being demanded is introducing legal provisions to deal with buyer power to address concerns raised in the agricultural sector, along with statutory removal of the tying of intention and negligence to cartel conduct under section 9(4) of the Act, the official indicated.

The changes seek to bring legislation to empower FCC to issue summons when the commission wanted any information, the FCC intoned.