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Esnart Banda Struggling For Survival Amid Rising Cost Of Living

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Together with her five children, she depends on her K80 000 monthly salary she earns at a hair dressing salon in Blantyre.

Consumers deserve to be protected from unfair trading practices
She says: “It has not been easy. There was a time that we had to go almost eight months with half pay when the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in partial lockdown.

“We were not making enough money at the salon and to save our jobs, our boss had to put us on half pay.”

Unfortunatly for her, in her quest for survival, she has been duped numerous times by traders selling counterfeit and substandard products at low prices.

“There was a time I was sold fake margarine in our local market and at one point, I was sold expired baby milk. Considering how difficult it is to make ends meet, I decided to get back to the local store only to be refused a refund and returned despite producing a receipt.”

According to the Centre for Social Concern (CfSC) data, a Blantyre family of six is projected to spend K289 698 to meet basic needs.

At the national level, food demand is about K147 134 while non-food products including housing, electricity and water, demands K107 985 for a household of six.

Consumers Association of Malawi executive director John Kapito observes that the market has been hijacked by unscrupulous traders supplying substandard products at unreasonable prices.

He says: “The behaviour of industries and traders leaves a lot to be desired. They engage in cheating and other anti-competitive tendencies to defraud consumers forgetting that buyers are drivers of their growth.

“I can tell you that with this cheating on consumers; the Buy Malawi Strategy will not work because consumers are frustrated big time.”

He urges the Competition and Fair Trading Commission (CFTC) to ensure a level playing field for all businesses.

CFTC public relations officer Innocent Helema admits that there has been rising concerns over increases in prices of basic goods lodged with the commission.

He says the commission conducted some inspections, along with relevant stakeholders such as the Ministry of Industry and Trade, in relation to alleged unfair trading practices, specifically on hoarding and excessive pricing.

Helema says: “We will also continue doing so whenever we suspect unfair trading practices. 

“So far we have launched investigations against some traders and will continue to do so against any other suspected offenders.”

He, however, advises consumers to be vigilant in ensuring that their rights are not being infringed upon.

“Where their rights have been violated, they should first try to get their issue addressed by the enterprise responsible for the said violation and if they don’t receive redress to their complaints they should contact the commission,” Helema says. Based on its mandate, CFTC is mandated to carry out investigations on unfair trading practices, provide persons engaged in business with information regarding their rights and duties under the Competition and Fair Trading Act, provide information for the guidance of consumers regarding their rights as well as undertake studies and make available public reports.“`

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