Sierra Leone’s consumer protection laws strengthened – will consumers have faith in the justice system?

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 18 August 2020:

Sierra Leoneans may be among the most discerning and ‘shopping savvy’ group of consumers on the continent but few understand their legal rights, let alone have confidence in the country’s legal system when it comes to seeking justice after parting with their hard earned cash.

But all that is about to change with the passing of the new Consumer Protection Act, 2020 by the Parliament of Sierra Leone on Thursday 6th August 2020; and, only if consumers will change their negative perception of the justice system.

The Act is aimed at providing protection and promote the interest of consumers, as well as make legal provision for the  government to establish a National Consumer Commission that will advocate and fight for the rights of consumers.

Changes to the laws were tabled and sponsored by the Minister of Trade and Industry, Dr. Edward Hinga Sandy.

Minister Sandy informed parliament that the objective of the new laws is to enhance the protection and rights of the consumers in a free market economy; to address issues surrounding a restricted market, and to allow a free flow market in respect of consumer protection in Sierra Leone.

Presenting the Joint Report of the Legislative and Trade Committees, the Chairman of the Legislative Committee, Hon. Hindolo M. Gevao informed MPs that both the Legislative and Trade Committees proposed the amendments with inputs from Standard Bureau and Traders’ Unions present during the course of the hearings.

In light of the recommendations, the Chairman disclosed that the Committees spent few days to amend and scrutinize the  clauses, fines, and penalties on culprits, service delivery and safety, consumer protection, and composition of the Consumer Protection Commission Board.

He assured MPs that the Report reflects a consensus of Honourable Members of both Committees who formed part of the deliberations.

After presenting the Report, the Chairman was accorded a resounding applause for a job well done  before the recommendations were adopted and the Bill passed into law with some amendments.

The consumer laws have been strengthened but a lot of work must now start to educate the public about their consumer rights and obligations, if the new laws are to be beneficial. Also the government must establish a Consumer Rights Court to deal with cases ranging from property to vehicle sales, as well as financial services transactions.

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