Bulawayo residents have decried the absence of legislation that protects consumers which have exposed them to abuse by business owners.
The residents expressed their disgruntlement during a Portfolio Committee of Industry and Commerce public hearing held at the Large City Hall, Tuesday.
Members of parliament are going around the country, as per their constitutional duty, engaging citizens on their views concerning the proposed Consumer Protection Bill.
Bulawayo United Residents’ Association (Bura) chairperson Winos Dube said there is rampant abuse of women and the handicapped by shop owners who block entrances to their shops using benches or crates.
“There are shop owners who barricade entrances to their shops as a security measure,” lamented Dube.
“These people are actually violating consumer rights. Imagine pregnant women as well as handicapped people having to struggle to make it beyond the barricades, being forced to jump over those obstacles. We feel it is a violation of rights and we suggest alternative security measures be put in place”.
Dube said there should be legislation that caters for the elderly especially when “there is a scarcity of commodities, the elderly are left out because they can’t stand in queues”.
Prices are being hiked even before restocking and retailers are ripping off consumers, he added.
“Can there be functional toll-free numbers for consumers to call on when their rights are violated”.
Reverend Frank Mhlanga of Voice of the Pulpit said the Standards Association of Zimbabwe should ensure that supermarkets display the correct prices on their shelves.
He implored on the government to act on Chinese business people who gravely violate consumer rights.
“Chinese shops use the No Refunds No Returns mantra yet they are popular for selling shady goods. You get home and find that their goods do not meet the standard they are meant for. Can this be looked into,” said Rev Mhlanga.
Desire Moyo of Victory Siyanqoba said there is a need for consumers to be consulted before prices are hiked.
“May there be consultations and dialogue with stakeholders and consumers before prices are hiked. It’s not fair to have prices changed overnight, especially of commodities that affect the economy as a whole. One lesson should be what happened when fuel price was hiked overnight,” said Moyo.
Charles Maponda, another resident, said residents need to understand the economy they are in to understand the behaviour of business people.
“We need to understand what kind of economy we are living in because some of the expectations we have may not be in line with our economy. Consumers can protect themselves from some of these violations, for example, through boycotting retailers and service providers who charge exorbitant prices,” said Muponda.
Consumer Council of Zimbabwe Deputy Director Rosemary Siyachitema said they have received a lot of reports of businesses who violate their contractual agreements with customers, especially those who buy goods on hire purchase.