May 17, 2010, 1:49 PM
The Gambia Competition Commission(GCC) recently convened a seminar to review the draft consumer protection bill.
Held at the Senegambia Beach Hotel, the seminar brought together different stakeholder, together to fill the ‘missing gap’ of the bill.
The draft bill seeks to protect consumers as well as to ensure fair trade and competition.
The draft act also reflects an effort to align international standards with the particular characteristics of the economy and legal system of The Gambia focusing on market behaviour that is most likely to be found in smaller developing and least-developed economics.
The Gambia Competition Commission enacted by parliament in 2007, has a formidable task of ensuring that consumers of goods and services provided in the country are protected from all sorts and shades of exploitation and anti-competitive behaviours.
In her opening remarks, Naffie Barry, permanent secretary of the Ministry of Trade, Regional Integration and Employment, said The Gambia government is clearly and fully committed to fostering the private-sector to lead economic growth and development of the country, as articulated in the PAGE document.
According to her, The Gambia, like most other developing countries, adopted structural programmes and market-oriented reforms such as deregulation, privatization of public enterprises and trade and investment liberalization, among others, to minimize government’s involvement or intervention in economic activities and to provide an enabling market environment for promoting economic growth.
“These reforms have been regarded as means of enhancing consumer welfare through increased variety, quantity and quality of goods and services at market prices rather than administrative decisions.”
She added: “It is important to note that consumer protection is a significant aspect of consumer welfare which can be achieved by installing a consumer protection regime in The Gambia through the bottom-up approach where activities of consumer-focused organizations will be coordinated to help complement the commission’s enforcement of the provisions.”
She also said it is globally recognised that a free-market economy within appropriate regulatory, competitive and consumer protection frameworks is essential for sustained economic growth and development.
“The enactment of a consumer protection law for the Gambia will complement the competition law and broaden the mandate of Gambia Competition Commission as recommended by the consultant and adopted by the Ministry of Trade, Industry, Regional Integration and Employment,” said Madam Barry
Speaking earlier, Alhagi T.S.A. Njie, Chairman of Gambia Competition Commission, said few years back the Government of The Gambia decided on a liberal economic policy and a free market-oriented liberal economic policy to be developed, with and for private-sector participation.
He noted that in 2007 government also passed the Gambia Competition Act to foster healthy business environment.
He added that there is a body of laws to protect competition, “but is not the same thing as protecting the consumer”.
However, the GCC chairman emphasised that to ensure the consumer is protected there is need for a body of laws which specifies what would happen if a consumer of product or service is damaged.
He also challenged the participants to critically analyse the document to try and fill the gap as “it is very vital for the country”.