City traders cautioned on standards, customer care

As the world marked the World Consumer Rights Day on Friday, officials from the trade ministry and standards body made a surprise visit to Kigali’s business hub, where they urged traders to observe buyers’ rights and standards.
Shoppers pick items in a supermarket. Trade ministry has urged traders to observe standards.
Shoppers pick items in a supermarket. Trade ministry has urged traders to observe standards.

As the world marked the World Consumer Rights Day on Friday, officials from the trade ministry and standards body made a surprise visit to Kigali’s business hub, where they urged traders to observe buyers’ rights and standards.

The unexpected tour by the Minister of Trade and Industry, Francois Kanimba and Mark Cyubahiro, the Rwanda Bureau of Standards (RBS) director general, saw some traders penalised for compromising standards. Others were warned to ensure standards and quality service delivery.

Cyprien Munyabarame, the head of wholesalers in Kigali’s ‘Quartier Commerciale’ was fined Rwf200,000 for contravening consumer safety standards.

The trader was found by the officials to have placed his bags of rice directly on the floor instead of placing them on wooden pallets, where the foodstuffs cannot get exposed to moisture. When foodstuffs are exposed to moist they form moulds that create dangerous micro-toxins in one’s body when eaten.

Micro-toxins are bacteria that cause cancer in body organs like the small intestines.

“If the leader of all wholesalers in this place behaves like this, how will the others promote consumer protection,” said Kanimba.

Munyabarame was not the only culprit as other business people had earlier been found with foodstuffs that had hand-written manufacture and expiry dates, with no price tags, which is against the Rwanda Bureau of Standards guidelines.

“This has been a surprise visit that caught us off-guard. If I had been informed earlier, I would have placed the bags of rice on pallets,” said Munyabarame after paying the fine.

“This indicates that there is still a lot of work to do in order to protect consumers. The remaining option is to enforce legal provisions to put things in order,” Kanimba cautioned.

The traders seem to disrespect the regulations despite laws on competition and consumer protection having been adopted to enhance these values.

A Competition and Consumer Protection Unit was also created in the trade ministry to handle consumer complaints, as well as carrying out awareness campaigns.

“All traders I talked to today told me that they were aware of the laws, but they just don’t oblige with the provisions.

“I am convinced that even if there is flexibility in price, the threshold price always set by the traders is always much higher than the market price,” Kanimba said.

The minister noted that enforcing the law was the best way to protect consumers.

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