Five-year jail term for denying consumers refunds, returns

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UNFAIR practices by retailers to sell goods and deny consumers the right to return or exchange the purchased items if they are defective or sub-standard will attract a jail sentence of at least five years, according to the new Consumer Protection Act.
The Act came into law in December 2019, repealing the Consumer Contracts Act.
While speaking at the Daily News business breakfast forum yesterday, legal expert Runouya Zimudzi said consumers are now entitled to full refunds and are protected from unnecessary deceptive, unfair and fraudulent business practices.
“In terms of section 42 of the Act to label ‘no exchange, no refund’ attracts up to five years’ imprisonment or level 4 to 5 offences.
“If I purchase a product for example, that I intended to use for agricultural purposes, and it does not serve the purpose, I can approach the (Consumer Protection) Commission and seek for compensation, including for the inconvenience,” he said.
The Act provides the consumer with the right to “choose goods and services of his or her choice without undue pressure and the right to reject or return goods within a reasonable time.”
Before its promulgation, consumers were forced to keep defective and substandard goods as most shop owners buttressed the “no refunds and no return” policy.
The Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ), which has been spearheading the promulgation of the Act, said it prohibits and criminalises such disclaimer notices.
“Any supplier who contravenes this section shall be guilty of an offence that ranges from criminal sanction to civil sanction. Where it’s a criminal sanction, the matter shall be directed to the National Prosecution Authority (NPA). There are processes provided for by the Act in terms of how a consumer will initiate a complaint,” CCZ national chairperson Phillip Bvumbe said.
Through an independent Consumer Protection Agency, consumers will be able to report cases of unfair practises by retailers.
“Suppliers’ responsibility is very key. The act binds both formal and informal traders and shall be required to take appropriate measures to provide fair value quality to consumers, to provide warranty to consumers, we are talking about disclaimer clauses, no refunds, no returns. At owner’s risk and so forth,” Bvumbe added.
Industry and Commerce minister Sekai Nzenza said government will also be embarking on a blitz on sub-standard products which have proliferated largely in the informal market.
“The ministry will also work closely with the Standards Association of Zimbabwe which will ensure that we are having quality, healthy products brought into Zimbabwe.
“You would notice that with the amount of importation that is happening right now, many untested goods are coming in and there is a huge impact to the consumer. Some of these goods will affect health and skin,” she said.

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