Nqobile Tshili, Business Reporter
GOVERNMENT has deployed a team to probe shops for malpractices such as failure to stick to the official exchange rate when transacting, a Cabinet Minister has said.
The deployment comes at a time when the Consumer Protection Act to curb malpractices by some businesses that have been short-changing clients and profiteering is set to be launched.
The consumer law is set to address issues to do with supplying substandard products and in some cases overcharging.
It will also address the selling of goods in foreign currency above the stipulated exchange rate.
For instance, most shops in Bulawayo are pegging their products at US$1: ZW$100 while the official rate is at US$1: ZW$81,1 under the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe foreign currency auction system
Industry and Commerce Minister Sekai Nzenza said Government was addressing irregularities in pricing of some goods.
She said a team from the ministry was already on the ground to assess the quality of goods being provided to consumers with the hope of arresting cheats as well as those flouting exchange control regulations.
“This team is found in each province. They move around with a scale to, for example, measure a 500ml bottle to check if it is correct. This team can just approach any shop without notice. They will be having their own 500ml to see if those in the shop are really 500ml. So, this group is in all provinces and giving us reports of what is happening. It is true that there are shopkeepers that are doing that dubious act,” Minister Nzenza told the Senate last Thursday.
“As human beings, we find people who are naughty and people who do act that are amusing. If the official rate of the day is ZW$90 and others are offering ZW$120 that is against the law but this monitoring group that I have mentioned is going around the provinces. If they find such acts going on, they go to that particular shop. They are not getting into each and every shop but what I promise is that we are working in all the provinces.”
The minister said it is important that consumers are fully informed on what currency they must use, whether the United States dollar or the Zimbabwe dollar.
She said there is need for retailers to comply with requirements. “If you are caught in the act of selling things against the law and if you are giving people a product that does not satisfy them, you will be arrested because it is an act against the law,” she said.
“It is the Government’s desire that the consumer pays a price that equates the goods they would have purchased. Therefore, that is the reason why we have the Consumer Protection Act which is due to be launched soon. This was done to ensure that, for example, when you get into a shop and take goods from the shelf, there must be an expiry date, price and it must not be labelled ‘do not return if not in good state’.”
The minister said Government was aware that some businesses, especially in rural areas, are rejecting local currency for foreign currency and the law will address those shortcomings. — @nqotshili.