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CCPC advises consumers to be cautious when transacting through online platforms

THE Competition and Consumer Protection Commission has expressed concern over some websites using misleading information to attract more customers to attain high profit margins.

The Commission, under the African Consumer Protection Dialogue (AD), a network that focuses on consumer protection issues around Africa, recently conducted an internet sweep.

According to a statement, the sweep, a review of websites with potential unfair trade practices, focused on disclosure of terms and conditions in e-commerce transactions and was done on 235 websites.

It stated that following the sweep, the commission noted with concern that most of the international online sales platforms were cited to possess information that was misleading and seemingly fraudulent, deceptive and unfair to consumers transacting online.

The commission noted that 81 per cent of the websites were characterised with information relating to unclear privacy and restrictive return policies, misleading information on pricing and hidden terms and conditions.

The commission noted that these practices were a detriment and unfair to the consumers and they were also a likely violation of Sections 45, 47, 49(5) and 53 of the Competition Consumer Protection (CCPA) Act, which clearly prohibits unfair trading practices and false or misleading representations.

CCPC executive director Chilufya Sampa disclosed that the results of the sweep indicated a high sense of concern to the commission as most of the information displayed on websites were in fine print and had no provision for cancellation as well as privacy policies to consumers.

The commission advised consumers to be careful when transacting using online platforms, especially those which do not provide adequate information and a comprehensive redress mechanism.

It cautioned customers to always be on the lookout for information that appears to be seemingly enticing such as flash sales and limited quantity products, unsubstantiated and discount claims as well as the display of prices which have hidden additional charges and fees.

The commission advised consumers that it was their responsibility to consider taking precautionary measures by understanding fundamental terms and conditions associated with any transaction as failure to doing so would affect them in an event of a grievance.

It warned all firms that might have been using misleading information for attainment of sales or any other agenda to desist from engaging into such illegal practices punishable by the law.

“Further, firms and the business community are encouraged to consider embracing the culture of full disclosure of terms and conditions to their respective customers as that would assist them gain confidence and trust from their clients. CCPC has a mandate to promote competition and protect consumer welfare for the growth of the economy and benefit of the people of Zambia,” stated CCPC.

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