COVID-19: UNCTAD commends FCCPC on price gouging, anti-consumer activities

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has commended Nigeria, the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) for taking proactive and effective action against price gouging and other anti-consumer activities during the ongoing global Coronavirus pandemic.

The global body gave the thumbs-up at a recent webinar titled ‘Competition and Consumer Protection in Times of COVID-19’, featuring top representatives from competition and consumer protection agencies from across the world.

The webinar, designed to share ideas and experiences on managing e-commerce which had witnessed a spike in usage in the wake of the pandemic, also provided the opportunity for participants to discuss the increasing dependence on digital platforms for online shopping, virtual meeting and learning purposes in the wake of the pandemic.

Participants argued that the growing influence of digital platforms constitutes a source of concern for consumers as well as consumer and competition law enforcersstill trying to adapt their enforcement tools and analysis to the new reality.

The nation’s regulatory space, represented by Babatunde Irukera, Director General, Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC), was however recognised for its leadership role.

This, the agency was said to have demonstrated by its early successive warnings against unfair practices and anti-market behaviour and also for its robust determination to enforce the law against any breaches.

UNCTAD noted robust actions and positive outcomes in Nigeria, including a warning letter by FCCPC to sellers engaged in price gouging and arbitrary increases in prices of hygiene products during COVID-19 outbreak.

The global body also described as significant, Jumia’s decision to sweep its platform and delist 360 products belonging to 168 sellers of hand sanitizers and face masks from its platform for price gouging in response to regulatory action by FCCPC.

Speaking on Nigeria’s experience in enforcing fair competition and protecting consumers on busy online portals, Irukera stated that though the process was challenging, but progress had been made.

Responding to a question about whether ongoing prosecutions were based on consumer protection or competitions theories of criminal liability, Irukera clarified that though consumer protection has been the primary focus, competition is very much on FCCPC’s radar and the agency recently opened an investigation into unilateral significant price increase by a dominant player in an industry.

Other participants at the forum were:  Director for Consumer Protection, Superintendence of Industry and Commerce, Colombia, Ms. Maria Carolina Corcione; Director of International Cooperation, Korea Fair Trade Commission, Republic of Korea, Mr. Jongbae Park and Director of the International Affairs Office and acting Director of the European Affairs Office, Italian Competition Authority, Italy, Ms. Alessandra Tonnazzi, among others.

 

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