The Gambia Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (GCCPC) going by the motto of leveling the field for development, on Thursday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Public Utility Regulatory Authority (PURA) at a  hotel in Banjul.

The MoU is meant to cement the existing relationship between the two institutions whose work in the consumer protection complement each other. The workshop was further meant to introduce the Advertisement Regulation Act contained in section twelve of the Consumer Protection Act and the new Complaint Management System developed by PURA.

The Consumer Protection Act of 2014 seeks to protect consumers from unfair and misleading market practices while advertisement regulation will ensure that claims on advertisements are truthful and evidence based.

Speaking at the event, the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Trade, Integration and Employment (MoTIE)  Naffi Barry said since advertisements are meant to promote a product or services, they should not be exaggerated in a way to extol the virtues of a product.

She posited that advertisement can be objectionable when it deliberately utters falsehood or misrepresents facts. “The influence of advertisement on consumer’s choice is undeniable. Misleading and false advertisements are not just unethical; they distort competition and consumer choice. It further violates several basic rights of consumers to information, choice and protection against unsafe goods and services as well as unfair trade practices,” she said.

PS Barry added that the Consumer Protection Act is the only law that gives the consumers the right to seek redress including compensation for any loss or injury caused as a result of an advertisement through a specialised Consumer Tribunal Court. She further stated that section 11 of the Consumer Protection Act 2014 gives a comprehensive detail on unfair trade practices while section 12 of the same Act gives the Tribunal the power to order for the amendment of the content of any statement in an advertising message considered false and misleading.

“Free flow of information of goods and services is one fundamental aspect to market economy. Advertisement may adversely affect market performance when businesses use it to transmit deceptive or fraudulent message of which reasonable consumers are induced to rely on their detriment,” said the PS.

Speaking earlier, Solo Sima, representing the director general of PURA, stated that the MoU between the two institutions will begin a deeper collaboration for the benefit of the Gambian consumers. He said that with competition, there is always the issue of fair play as each entity seeks to gain an edge over its competitor. This, he added called for the need for institutions like PURA and GCCPC to be put in place to monitor the activities of the operators.

“The continued emergence of convergence in the areas of technologies and services means that the relationship between operators and consumers changes with expectations increasing with time and as such, the need for striking a balance to effectively manage these expectations becomes imperative,” he said.

The executive secretary of GCCPC, Amadou Ceesay, also stated that the GCCPC and PURA share common goals which call for an MoU between the two institutions. With the MoU he said, they will work to appropriately identify issues of concern to both institutions and establish a framework that avoids duplication of efforts, among others.

by Meita Touray