Nigeria moved inches closer to having a competition czar as the Senate, yesterday (Thursday, 8 June 2017), at its plenary session passed the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Bill, 2017.
By Aanuoluwa Omotosho and Tobi Opusunju
The Bill seeks to establish a Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission and Tribunal for the development and promotion of fair, efficient and competitive markets in Nigeria, facilitate access to safe products by all citizens and protect the rights of all consumers in Nigeria.
Earlier in March, the House of Representatives had unanimously passed the bill to repeal the Consumer Protection Act and establish the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission and Consumer Protection Tribunal.
With the concurrence of the Senate, the bill now only requires the assent of the President to become law. The bill is once passed into is expected to address issues of market competition and consumers’ rights. The bill as an Act will affect all sectors to address the increasing complexity of Nigeria’s economy.
In the telecom sector, the Association of Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ATCON) had recently called for the creation of a Competition and Market Authority (CAMA), a competition czar across all sectors that will help to address competition issues and other anomalies in the telecom industry as is the case in some other jurisdictions.
ATCON which argued that Nigerian Communications Act (NCA) 2003 and the Competition Practices Regulations Addendum 2007 are blurred on competition and other emerging issues in the sector, wants “a competition czar independent of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) that would regulate mergers and acquisition, unfair competition in markets; appropriate pricing and consumer choices among others to reflect both the realities and dynamism of the market.”
Senator Fatimat Olufunke Raji-Rasaki whose committee worked on the bill explained that “the bill among other things seeks to promote and maintain competitive markets in the Nigerian economy, protect and maintain the interests and welfare of consumers by providing competitive prices and product choices and prohibiting restrictive business practices that prevent competition or results in the abuse of a dominant position or market power.”
She also mentioned that the bill, if passed into law, would establish a National Administrative Framework for consumer protection, remove regulatory overlaps, create regulatory harmony between the Commission and other agencies involved in consumer protection and create a strict liability offense for common unfair trade practices to deter indulgence by providers of goods and services.
According to Raji-Rasaki, the “Committee had observed during its consideration of the Bill, that the core functions of the Commission would include the handling of complaints from consumers and instituting the mechanism for redress, collaborating with other statutory bodies in the discharge of its duties and mandates; including regulating and controlling goods and services approved by the Commission .”