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Nigerian Consumer rights and the Online Market


Published: 2 Oct 2013



Internet marketing and online sales is still in its infancy in Nigeria, but it is growing speedily. According to Africa Internet Usage and Population Statistics, internet diffusion in Nigeria is currently 28.9% at estimated 43,982,200 million users. This rapid growth - mainly due to the ease of access of mobile phones - has prompted businesses to seek for the services of expert online marketers who are able to exploit this situation.

From the article written by Asoto Adeola (Online Advertising in Nigeria: Overview of Trends Challenges Benefits)
"According Nigerian Communication Communications (NCC) Nigeria has over 75 million active mobile phone lines as at March 2010. The factors that contribute to this is a result of the growing middle class with disposable income, TV viewing habits are changing due to lack of time and the Facebook and Twitter generation is also on the increase. If about 60% of Nigerians are below 25 years, there is the need for brands to pay attention to this trend in their marketing approach."

E-commerce in Nigeria, is also gradually evolving, although cynicism continues to subsists about buying and selling goods online even for technology savvy individuals. Again, internet sales and purchases also face problems like poor internet connectivity which delays transaction done online. Irrespective of this fact, internet marketing and sales in Nigeria is already alive and kicking ahead at a great speed. To address the fears of the teeming Nigerians that are still sceptical about online business, there are avenues a consumer can take to handle any issue that may arise during the course of the buying and selling.

If you've made a transaction online and you are not satisfied with the goods or services, there are avenues through which you may seek redress. Ecommerce in Nigeria is challenging partly due to the erroneous belief that any form of trade that takes place outside the physical exchange of cash, has no trace-value. There is also the abuse of trade due the influx of scammers commonly referred to as 'yahoo' boys. Many potential buyers are ignorant of ways to check the authenticity of trade/market online. And there is the perennial problem of unreliable postal services of delivery of goods. the goods might be purchased online, but they still have to be physically delivered to the buyer. All these issues notwithstanding, various agencies have been setup under the consumer protection council to ensure safe delivery of goods and services purchased online and to ensure that problems that occur during transactions are settled in the best possible time, with the consumer getting fair value for his purchase. For more information about the consumer protection council see our article on the Nigeria consumer Right, consumer protection act and consumer protection council (CPC).

Another important organisation is the Consumer Empowerment Organization of Nigeria (CEON) which is charged with…
- Advocacy for full implementation of consumer protection council (CPC) act in Nigeria.
- Empowerment of consumers with information needed through awareness campaigns, counselling etc.
- Assist aggrieved customers to seek redress through alternative dispute resolution (ADR) mechanism.
- Advocacy for better business practices.
- Advocacy for pro-consumer welfare trade policy and international trade reforms in Nigeria.


Consumers Empowerment Organisation of Nigeria (CEON)
Explanation
Consumers Empowerment Organization of Nigeria - CEON (formerly called CAMON till March 2008) is a research and sponsorship non-governmental, not-for-profit autonomous and self-regulating organization established in 1995 to uphold and defend the rights and interests of consumers in Nigeria. CEON is actively engaged in the activities of consumer protection, competition and sustainable development through research, advocacy, networking, collaboration, partnership, education, information, advice and redress. The three major Campaigns themes for 2007/2008 are: effective competition regime in Nigeria, sustainable development and full implementation of Consumer Protection Council Act.

Contact
You can contact this organization by email at: ceon_camon@yahoo.com or info@ceon-camon.org.
Their website is www.ceon-camon.org. For snail mail or a visit to their office, their Headquarters is at No. 97, Ondo-Benin Road, Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State, Nigeria. Telephone: +234-703-033-0199; +234-702-718-3810; +234-1-7305406
Main contact is Babatunde Abiodun Adedeji, the Coordinator-General of the organization.

Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)
Again, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is a United States copyright law that allows specific files or contents to be detached by their owners if they are being used or published online without proper permission. For Nigerians who are victims of content or file theft, the following procedures should be followed while filing a complaint:
Collect the URL(s) or the link of the aberrant file(s). An model URL would be http://naijaxclusive.com/sjojwfwe
Ensure you are the appropriate owner of the file or content and that the said file hasn't got express permission to be published art that site. For the DMCA to be successful, you must send your email from a website that is lawfully owned by the affronted party. Any DMCA grievance sent from Gmail, Hotmail, or from other email accounts is not acknowledged.
Organize an email and send to advertise@naijaXclusive.com.
Compose the subject of the email as "DMCA - {Company Name}" (eg. "DMCA - Microsoft")
Ensure you put the URL(s) or links of the offending file or content into the body of the email. The email ought to include the recognition of copyrighted works, Copyright breach material site(s), and declaration of authority.
As soon as you send the email, the file will be swiftly removed. More information regarding this could be found at naijaXclusive website.

Consumer Protection Council Products and Services (PROSERVE)
Another agency under the consumer protection council that caters for the interest of aggrieved consumers is the Consumer Protection Council Products and Services (PROSERVE). This agency has the following aim…
- To establish a monitoring, inspection and verification regime for the validation of statuses and compliance of products and services with the existing rules and regulations.
- To provide pertinent information about products to consumers.
- To enhance general consumer awareness and their mode of operation in a marketplace.
- To facilitate efficient resolution of consumer complaints.



Remedial Grade of problems
In the online market, remedy to various problems is graded based on the nature of the case: Major or Minor cases.

The major cases may be a permanent damage, or goods that may take a long time to fix. In this case, the buyer may choose to return the item with an option of refund or exchange. He may also choose to keep the item and enjoy compensation from the seller. Most of the goods classified in this section are durable goods.
Peradventure the buyer encounters the minor problems, the buyer will have to return it to the seller, who must fix it within an agreed period of time, or the seller will refund the money or make an exchange.

It is important to note that occurrences like damage to product purchased, change of mind, ordering of wrong item, will not lead to an exercise of the consumer rights as regards online sales and trade.

A second point to note is the channels where you exercise your rights in event of any mishap.
If your goods are missing in transit, contact the shipping/delivery company.
If you buy items from contract houses/trade tables like 'olx.com', your contract of sale is the seller not the auction house.

REQUIREMENTS TO LODGE A COMPLAINT
A good point to note is, on making contact with the seller to resolve whatever issue that must have arisen; the buyer should have with him the following
Order confirmation and receipt
Proof of payment
Date of arrival
Refund policy or terms and conditions(if any)

Also, duplicate copies of all documents as regards to the transaction should be left with the seller.
The Rights You Have As A Nigerian Consumer When You Purchase Goods Online

Right to equality in the consumer market and protection against discriminatory practices:
Every Nigerian has the right to supplies (except restricted supplies like military goods and services). This means that goods are not limited to a particular set of people, neither is their prioritization in the sale and supply of goods and services. Also, this right covers the access of consumers to goods that are not adulterated nor have their quality altered for whatever reasons. With this, the consumer can demand an explanation for unfair prices for the same goods and services, inferior materials put on sale and can also purchase goods irrespective of age, gender, socio-economic status, geographical location or race.


Right to privacy:
Every consumer has the right to protect their privacy and confidentiality in respect to any unsolicited agreement. The consumers also have the right to pull out of sms alerts, phone calls, letters or spam mails and any other form of direct marketing strategies offered by companies and suppliers.

Right to choose:
Every Nigerian consumer has the choice of supplier or marketing agent. The obligation to shop around for best prices, goods and services, enter into additional agreement with the supplier or restrain any form of persuasion from the seller lies in your hands as a consumer. Also, the consumer makes the decision to cancel fixed-time agreements upon expiration, request cost estimates prior to purchase, request or terminate maintenance repairs, refuse payment on repairs done without prior approval, reject additional costs of inspection or diagnostic tests incurred without prior knowledge. Also, the right to refuse displayed items or request unopened goods, or request time to make necessary decisions or cancel reservations/orders made within the cooling-off period (which spans five business days), is the call of the consumer. Suppliers are also mandated to return cash paid to them within fifteen working days of receiving cancellation notice.

Right to information:
The suppliers are mandated to display the prices (either total or unit prices), applicable taxes, quantity of goods purchased, name or description of goods, full contact details of supplier of goods and services in full view of the consumers. This price details must be in clear and concise language understood by the consumer. The consumer also has a right to haggle especially when goods have varying prices. On the other hand, suppliers are demanded to display labels and trade description which will not mislead the consumer on the content of the package upon purchase. Defacing, amendment, concealing or removal of trademarks is prohibited. Again, the presence of any genetically modified product or content of a product, as well as grey marked goods should be displayed and detailed information passed out accordingly. Also contained here is the right to fully detailed receipts and any other document authenticating purchase of product.
NOTE: Grey marked goods are goods intended for use in another country but sold in a different country. For example, goods intended for use in Rwanda but sold in Nigeria.

Right to fair and responsible marketing:
Here, suppliers are not permitted to mislead the consumers by advertising services or advantages not obtainable from a specific product. Goods with conditional uses are not permitted for sale without the notice to the intended consumer. Consumers are not expected to make payment for items, subject to unfair conditions. Also, consumers reserve the right to know the currency for transaction, address of seller and suppliers, delivery arrangements, deed for the cancellation, return, exchange and refund of items and instructions on lodging of complaints. Also visible in the case of promotional offers, is the right of the consumer to know the nature of the reward, price reductions and discount of free things being offered amongst other gift items.

Right to fair and honest dealing:
Suppliers are not permitted to make use of pressure, duress, harassment or any form of physical force to market, supply or negotiate goods and services. Also, demand for money and recovery of goods are not to be done under unethical behaviors. Also, persons are not permitted under law to initiate, sponsor or participate in processes with the intent of defrauding others, whether financial matters or otherwise. Also, suppliers are not legally permitted to defraud organizations or individual by accepting payment from consumers with no intention of supplying the goods.

Right to fair and reasonable terms and conditions:
Suppliers are not permitted to make agreements of sale or supply of goods or render services at unfair prices or terms or to incite customers to waive off rights or assume obligations that are unfair and unreasonable. The consumer has the right to demand documents or be notified (either in written or audio or visual forms) of services or items that have terms and conditions attached to them. Nature and risk factors attached to certain items should be carried out with due notice and permission of the customer. Any document that exempts the supplier from giving the consumer full value for his money, require the consumer to forfeit an amount of money, put the consumer at risk or any other condition that is contrary to the acts of the consumer protection of the country should not be incorporated in any business transaction. Also, the consumer is under obligation to seek legal assistance in cases where form of disparity is encountered by the consumer.

Right to fair value, item quality and safety:
On entering a contract, consumers are entitled to timely performance and completion of services, timely notification in case of delays, high quality services and expectations, delivery of sound and functional goods and quality performance of services. Here, the cost of any defect in quality, product failure, and supply of unsafe goods should be borne by the supplier. Also durable goods should come with warranty with a minimum warranty of six months upon which a reduction in quality can lead to a return, repair or replacement. Suppliers are obliged to warrant goods that are reconditioned with a minimum duration of three months. Details of unsafe goods and hazardous items should be brought to the notice of the consumers and possible solutions proffered by the supplier. The supplier is also responsible for damages incurred by goods supplied which are unsafe or hazardous, have product defects, contain inadequate instruction as to the use of goods supplied.
Note: Warranties are null and void if consumers are found to misuse and/or abuse product and services within stipulated warranty periods.

Right to accountability from the suppliers:
Consumers are entitled to lay-bye agreement terms. By this, we mean that the supplier is at the mercy of the consumer to supply superior or equivalent goods, the consumer demands full refund of money paid plus interest as cited in the terms of agreement, if supplier fails to deliver goods within agreed period. Also, if the supplier has in his possession the properties or certificate(s) of authentication belonging to the consumer, he should not treat it as his own, care and diligence should be taken in handling such documents, he should assume responsibility for costs incurred when document is in his possession.

Where rights are not applicable
Online rights are not applicable in cases where the purchase is perishable like food materials or flowers, magazines, CD and DVD that has their seals torn, services like music downloads. This is because they have received the goods and used up theseven-day cooling period.

Inhibitions to online trade in Nigeria
Despite the enormous potential inherent in online marketing, sales and purchases for the Nigerian market, Nigerian online market and consumer still face so many problems that sets back purchasing and sale of goods online. Some of the problems faced are lack of trust, credibility of Nigerian online merchants, internet scams, shipping and shipping cost, unreliability of the online payment system-the available online payment sytem, Interswitch, entrnzact, valucard Nigeria and other minor payment systems like cashenvoy, dudupay, netnara, surepay and so on are not yet very efficient in delivering the services expected of them. To make the matter worst, Nigerian consumers are not allowed to use any of the international online payment system like paypal, and moneybookers or skrill. This has placed great limitations to what Nigerian consumers can purchase online.

There is a great need to work on this aspect to open up more opportunities for teeming unemployed Nigerians who could be gainfully employed online but are restricted due to the online payment system available to them. Apart from testimonies of people, I myself have had a good share of what it feels like to do business online in Nigeria. Many times, I have lost very good opportunities just for the mere fact that Nigerians are not allowed to use international online payment system like Paypal. Though Nigerians have devised means to circumvent those restrictions and are opening and using Paypal account and money bookers from Nigeria. Such moves also have disadvantages which could lead to termination of account and loss of money in the account when discovered.

The articles written by Oluniyi D. Ajao Challenges with Doing Business On the Internet from Nigeria and Challenges of Shopping Online in Nigeria as well as an article title Obstacles to conducting internet business in Nigeria also deal with this issue.

Where to complain for issues arising from online purchases as a Nigerian Consumer.
Peradventure, you encounter challenges as a result of goods bought online or services rendered, note that the consumer protection aims to promote policies by making provisions for the certification of consumer groups which have the mandate of lodging complaints on behalf of the consumers, they also make available support for advices, education and publications among other relevant activities.

The national consumer protection council investigates complaints and takes the necessary actions for the benefit of the consumers.

Headquarters
Plot 1105
Dar-es-Salaam Street
Off Aminu Kano Crescent
Wuse II, Abuja.
Email:cpcnigeria@yahoo.co.uk
Call Centre: 07002255272
Hotlines: 08056002020, 08056003030

Regional Offices
Lagos Office
No. 18 Ilupeju By-Pass, Ilupeju, Lagos
Email: cpc.lagos@yahoo.co.uk

CPC North-East Zonal Office
Makama New Extension, Federal Low Cost, adjacent to Federal Inland Revenue Service, Bauchi, Bauchi State
Email:cpcnortheast@yahoo.com


CPC North-West Zonal Office
Justice MammanNasir House, Nogogo Road Katsina, Katsina State
Email:nwestzone@yahoo.com

CPC South-East Zonal Office
Opposite Government House, (Along) Onitsha Road, Anambra State
Email: cpcsoutheast@yahoo.com

CPC South-South Zonal office
Plot F/9 Abacha Road, GRA Phase 3, Port Harcourt, Rivers State
Email: cpcsouthsouth@yahoo.com

CPC South-West Zonal office
Finance Complex State secretariat Oshogbo, Osun state
Email: cpcsw@yahoo.com

CPC North-Central Zonal office
Opp W.T.C Minna, Niger State.
Email: cpcnorthcentral@gmail.com


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