CONSUMERS in Tanzania are always in the losing end. They spend colossal sums on substandard or low quality products and services.
In Tanzania, consumers are not fully protected against harmful and/ or substandard products and services. As such they end up buying low quality products and services from unscrupulous business persons in the country unwittingly.
To pick a few gory, consumers who buy cement bags from retailers complain of cheating. In most cases they find the bags have been tempered with as they contain less weight. Heartrendingly, out of ignorance or lack of options, they purchase them.
Usually cement bags from manufacturing industries such as Twiga, Tanga, Dangote to mention but a few contain 50Kg but when bought from retailers they are always less than 50 Kg. Again, a brick making factory produces more than 60 bricks from say a 45Kg bag which by standards is unacceptable but the end user (consumer) out of inexperience or sheer negligence end up buying the bricks.
And when you try to look at the whole construction chain the picture is extremely gloomy. Again, we have come across cases of dishonest construction engineers who collude with fundis to use unacceptable ratio at the expense of the poor client.
Cases of substandard buildings are many and are known by industry fathers yet no action has been taken to correct the anomaly. ‘Bongo Dar es Salaam’ in this scenario is the catch word. The phenomena around ‘Bongo’ is something that economic advisors to President JPM need to explain and unpack to help him in the war against corruption and economic saboteurs.
Appallingly, consumer cheating has grown thick skinned and unfortunately no one seems to be bothered by it. Sadly, the victims of consumer cheating have opted to remain silent and others just complain in the ‘corridors’.
In the gas industry, for instance, only God knows what consumers go through in their everyday life. I can bet, a quick inspection of many of gas pump machines in Dar es Salaam and elsewhere in the country will reveal that many have been tempered with.
This gives a snap picture of how consumer cheating has grown roots in many businesses in the country. Cheating can be noticed from food, education, health, agriculture, mining and energy industries.
The list is endless and what annoys is that actions taken against it are always temporary and reactive in nature. Why has cheating taken roots in our society and business community? Reasons for this is by no means mystery.
Businessmen and women simply want to make quick bucks at the expense of poor consumers. The question also takes me back through time and space. Whilst doing my advanced level of secondary education at Ilboru High School back in the days, Mr Kapombe who was teaching Literature had this to say to sun-bathers at Form V A2, “Why are you lying young men…you are too young to lie to me.
Imagine, you start lying at this age…. what do you think would happen to you when you grow old like me? You will continue lying!” Interestingly, much as our business people recognize that dishonest destroys businesses, they have continued to do so defiantly.
It goes without saying, however, their time is around the clock! Customers will soon lose confidence in them and that will be the end of it. Poignantly, unscrupulous business people take this fact for granted.
In most cases they neither take into consideration the welfare of their business nor that of the consumers (clients). All what matters to them is ‘super’ profit. Boldly put, the moral fabric of the business society has been put into question but relevant authorities seem to be in inertia.
A critical look into this one would be forced to believe that we are now living in a ‘dog-eat-dog society’. Those with the means and muscles are taking advantage of the weak while those who have been given the mandate to protect and safeguard the interests of consumers play the referee.
My call is that responsible government agents such as Fair Competition Commission (FCC), Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS), Tanzania Food and Drugs Authority (TFDA) and all other stakeholders in this area should be more proactive to reverse the situation.
The media industry has done and is continuing to do its part by exposing all corrupt elements to eradicate the malpractice. Relevant authorities need to pick from there and support the move to protect consumers in the country.
Pressure groups such as consumer societies (if there are any) must raise their voices to address the challenges consumers face, provide solutions and chat out a way forward. Individual consumers should also report issues of cheating to relevant authorities for actions to be taken.
We must not keep silent, let us all raise our voices because it’s our right to be provided services and products worth the value of money we have given. We must Say No to consumer cheating because if the situation is left unchecked, consumers will continue to be exploited something that is not healthy to the growth of our welfare and the economy as a whole.
Have a great ‘Sato’ Comrades