The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA)'s competition watchdog plans to tighten surveillance in order to enhance consumer protection, officials said on Monday.
George Lipimile, Chief Executive of the COMESA Competition Commission, told journalists in Nairobi that restrictive trade practices by member states and big firms are on the rise leading to exploitation of consumers.
"We are coming up with a system that takes into account the realities on the ground so that we can manage anti-competitive behaviors with a view to eventually eliminate them so that we promote consumer protection," Lipimile said on the sidelines of the Fifth COMESA Annual Research Forum.
Lipimile said that most common form of anti-competitive behaviour in the 21 member bloc is protectionism measures put in place by national governments aimed at shielding their companies from competition.
He noted that protectionism is currently one of the biggest threats to the realisation of free flow of goods and services in the economic bloc.
Lipimile said that competition laws are still very new in the region and therefore most dominant firms are resistant to change. He noted that cartels are prevalent is almost all sectors of the economy and this is putting customers at risk of exploitation by suppliers of goods and services.
The competition watchdog noted that the banking sector is one of the industries that have exhibited anti-competitive behavior.
"We have seen quite a lot of abuse in terms of non-disclosure of critical information to consumers," he said.
According to the regional bloc, most member states don't have robust institutions to educate the public on their consumer rights.