Most Nigerian consumers are unaware of their consumer rights. Out of the few that are aware, an even smaller number have an idea of how to enforce such rights. The widespread lack of awareness, coupled with other factors in favour of the manufacturer, results in consumers getting the shorter end of the stick with regards to adequate protection from substandard, unsafe or inadequate products and services. The importance of consumer protection mechanisms is further amplified by global industrialisation and the recent influx of fake drugs into the Nigerian market.

The Government has a duty to protect its people from unscrupulous acts of sellers and manufacturers in order to uphold their rights and prevent adverse ripple effects that may arise. In furtherance of this objective, consumer protection laws have been enacted empowering government agencies to enforce and protect the rights of its citizens.

Consumers who intend to enforce their rights are usually faced with various hurdles ranging from ignorance to legal limitations and difficulties in civil actions. As a result, they are continuously deprived of their rights which are trampled upon by manufacturers / sellers. In Nigeria, it is evident that the consumer is the weaker party.

This research aims to review the existing statutory framework for consumer protection in a bid to highlighting flaws in the current system (both legal and non-legal) and proffer feasible recommendations and solutions to cure the prevalent malady. Furthermore, Nigerian case law will be examined in looking at the Court’s approach and attitude towards consumer protection in Nigeria.

The methodology to be employed in carrying out this study is of a qualitative and descriptive nature. This research will utilise both primary and secondary sources of information; gathered from textbooks, journals and articles (both online and published), dictionaries, paper presentations, public documents, statutes, etc. It is from an examination of these sources that the writer would address the questions generated by this project.

The deeply rooted maxim of caveat emptor2no longer applies strictly to consumer transactions as it has been whittled down by decisions of the court.3 On the contrary, it is the seller who must be cautious and ensure that goods and services provided meet up with the reasonable standards required by law.4

The saying, “Consumer is King”, is commonly used across the world to signify the upper-hand consumers have in determining the overall success or failure of any product or service. This also means that goods and services should be satisfactorily tailored to meet the needs of the consumer. As a result, rights accrue to consumers which they can enforce through civil actions in the event of breach or violation of those rights. These consumer rights are further enforced through laws promulgated by the National Assembly and such laws are enforced by government agencies.5 Their joint efforts are aimed at furthering the protection of consumer’s interests.

In Nigeria, a plethora of laws exist for the purpose of protecting consumer rights. Nevertheless, most Nigerian consumers aren’t able to receive adequate remedy for injuries suffered due to manufacturer’s products or services. Therefore, it may be concluded that the profusion of legal framework is not reflected in the protection afforded to consumers. Although recent efforts have been made by consumer protection agencies6 to strengthen the enforcement of consumer rights and promotion of their interests, Nigerian consumers are still deemed to be weaker than manufacturers/producers. The current paradigm calls for a balance of the competing interests of both sides.

According to Scott Maynes, consumers are ill-served majorly due to lack of information.7 This, coupled with the lack of awareness and the literacy levels amongst majority of the Nigerian populace, serves to fetter the enforcement of consumer rights. In Nigeria, the literacy rate as at December 2013 was placed at 61.3%.8 This means that nearly half of the people in Nigeria are illiterate. There even exists unawareness of consumer rights amongst the educated class. As a result, most consumers are unable to successfully assert their rights and are exploited by service providers. The need for an efficient consumer protection mechanism is further necessitated by modern technological advancements, deceptive advertising, marketing techniques and the advent of globalisation.

Others factors hampering the rights of consumers include: overlapping functions of consumer protection agencies and difficulties faced in enforcing civil rights. Nigeria, being a pro-consumer state with a population of about 170 million people9, must take steps to ensure that its people have smooth recourse to remedies for breach of their rights. The protection and advancement of consumer interests have therefore become a major concern to the government.

This study will examine the existing legal/statutory framework for consumer protection in Nigeria with a view to proffering the need for reforms, if any. It will also make recommendations as regards possible legal and non-legal redress mechanisms for consumers.

The industrial age witnessed the creation of machines and more sophisticated devices. The development of rail transport coupled with widening markets resulted in consumers having diminished rights and privileges in relation to the quality of products and prices of goods and services. The English common law principles of negligence were first used and subsequently, legislation protecting consumers came into being. The Factories Act of 180210 and the Factory and Workshop Act of 189511 in England, are good examples. Today, consumer protection legislation has developed to cover a broader spectrum. Modern consumer protection legislation covers goods, services, labelling, packaging, components and materials used which are likely to cause injury and/or detriment to the consumer. In the 18th century, Adam Smith12 pointed out that interests of the consumer were usually “sacrificed” for those of the producer. He further submitted that since consumption is the sole purpose of production, consumer rights must be 1042 Geo. III c.73. The Act was established by the Parliament of the United Kingdom to regulate factory conditions especially in relation to child workers in cotton mills.

considered over that of manufacturers. The practice of placing consumer’s rights second to those of producers continued for quite some time in that era. However, there has been a paradigm shift in recent times which has seen strict duties imposed on manufacturers, sellers, brand owners, producers and other persons in the supply chain. The 20th century was marked by the prevalence of consumers who play an important role in determining the overall success or failure of a product or service.

Generally speaking, consumer protection refers to that body of law that serves to protect buyers against unscrupulous activities of sellers. It refers to the provision of effective mechanisms to protect the pecuniary, health, safety and security interests of all legal persons against misleading, fraudulent and harmful business practices, including manufacturing, trading, packaging, advertising, distributing and selling of products/goods and services to the ultimate consumer.13

In a broader sense, it governs the liability of not only manufacturers of goods and services, but also retailers, wholesalers, and other suppliers of goods and services to persons who use or consume them.14

Closely related to this is the concept of Consumerism. The term consumerism has been used in different disciplines to mean different things. It may be defined as a programme to promote consumer interest including protection of the environment and restraints on abuse by businesses15. Definitions by experts in the field also exist. According to Philip Kotler, consumerism is a social movement that seeks to augment the rights of buyers in relation to sellers.16 Maynes submitted that consumerism represents the voice of consumer dissatisfaction along with avenues for remedial actions.17

It is evident that the nature and extent of consumer protection regulation in a modern society is a reflection of its socio-economic values. Various factors influence and determine the stage a country’s consumer protection framework has reached. These include the quantum of information available to the consumers; the extent to which the available consumer protection legislation is efficacious; the degree of consumer education available for the general public; awareness of the masses to consumer related issues and rights; and governmental agencies involvement in consumer issues.

Experts such as Kaynak posit that consumerism is likened to a social movement which goes through its own growth process or life cycle.18 This means that the concept of consumer protection in any given state may go through its own consumerism life cycle – just like a human being would. He outlined four integral stages of the life cycle. These are: crystallisation, organization, institutionalization, and conceptualization. It may be concluded that Nigeria is currently at the crystallization stage because of the lack of organised consumer related activities. Majority of the recent consumer related actions have been carried out by the CPC or non-governmental consumer protection groups. From the foregoing, it may be concluded that consumerism is a social movement aimed at protecting consumers.

The need for consumer protection in recent times is more apparent and has been highlighted by the accelerated establishment of consumer protection legislation in developing countries like Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Thailand.19 Amongst other factors, industrialisation has resulted in more sophisticated products being created and distributed across the globe. Modern day consumer protection laws must be broad based and dynamic enough to safeguard against the increased risks that consumers are exposed to. Studies have shown that consumer dissatisfaction is prevalent where sellers are reluctant to resolve justified consumer grievances and government fails to stand up to defend the interests of buyers20. Consumers must also be protected from trade malpractice. Unfair dealings in the marketplace include but are not limited to misleading advertising, unjust dales promotions and unfair exclusion clauses.

In Nigeria, Consumer Protection is regulated by a plethora of legislations. These include the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) Act21, the Foods and Drugs Act22, the Consumer Protection Council (CPC) Act23, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) Act24, the Nigerian Communications Act25 and the Utilities Charges Commission Act26amongst others. This paper will focus on the CPC, NAFDAC and SON Acts. References may however be made to other laws, regulations and legislations subsequently.

19 A. Chatterjee and S. Sahoo, Consumer Protection: Problems and Prospects, Postmodern Openings, Year 2, Vol.7, September, 2011.

20 Andreasen and Best, “Consumers’ Complaints: Does Business Respond?”, Harvard Business Review, Vol. 55, July/August , 1977, pp. 319-324.

The purpose of this paper is to:

1. Examine the existing legal framework for consumer protection in Nigeria and determine its impact along with the efficacy of the functions of the Government in protecting consumers; and

2. Uncover reasons why consumers are deemed to be insufficiently protected notwithstanding the existence of various governmental agencies established for that purpose.

In furtherance of this objective, the legal framework for consumer protection will be examined so as to make necessary recommendations.

This project will cover consumer protection statutes in force since the establishment of the CPC Act and thus, will be limited to a period of 1992-2012. It will also highlight judgments given by Nigerian courts from 1920-2014 and other relevant decisions of foreign courts that date as far back as 1914.

In view of this, it would be impracticable to assume that all necessary facts have been gathered in the process of the study. The information gathered and resources utilized are limited to those accessed and made available with the aid of local newspapers, magazines, journals and annual reports of the Consumer Protection Council (CPC), Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON), the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and other relevant sources from the internet. However, the effect of this limitation will be reduced to the barest minimum.

This project is noteworthy as it helps to empower and educate consumers on their rights thereby allowing them to make informed decisions regarding how best to enforce their rights and the necessary procedures in doing so.

It also strives to emphasise the need for manufacturers and sellers to ensure that goods and services meet up with (and even exceed) the standards required by consumers. The findings of this project will immensely affect the way consumers are viewed in Nigeria by the courts, manufacturers and the Government. It will pave the way for future development in our legal system and serve as an avenue for promoting efficient trade practices in the country.

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Item Type: Project Material  |  Size: 80 pages  |  Chapters: 1-5
Format: MS Word  |  Delivery: Within 30Mins.


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