The Internet and The Consitution:Consumer Rights


In the emerging digital economy where technology is rapidly taking the place of personal interactions in the supply of goods and services, the consumer has become both more empowered and more vulnerable. Strong consumer protection regimes are an imperative for an Internet-driven globalized market.

The repealed Constitution did not make any provisions declaring the rights of consumers. Consumer protection therefore remained the subject of statutory enactments/Acts of Parliament. The Kenya Information and Communications Act, 1998 and its Kenya Communications Regulations 2001 made various provisions for the protection of consumers of ICT services.

However under the current Constitution,in section 47 all Consumers    have the right-

 

  •  to goods and services of reasonable quality;
  • to the information necessary for them to gain full benefit from goods and services;
  • to the protection of their health, safety and economic interests; and
  • to be compensated for loss or injury arising from defects in goods or services.

Closely linked with consumer rights is the right to fair administrative action. A modern trend in many administrative offices has been the adoption of service charters that include an open door policy where members of the public can present their grievances. However, this is a practice that depends on the goodwill of the officeholder as it is not anchored in law. Even while in the communications sector the Regulator, Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) has been generally fair in responding to consumer complaints, the law will now compel them to also be expeditious, efficient, lawful, reasonable as well as procedurally fair.

Consequently, Consumer Protection Bill, 2011 is to be enacted to provide for the protection of the consumer, prohibit unfair trade practices in consumer transactions,to promote a fair, accessible and  sustainable marketplace for consumer products and services and for that purpose to establish national norms and standards relating to consumer protection, to provide for improved standards of consumer information, to promote responsible consumer behavior, to promote a consistent legislative and enforcement framework relating to consumer transactions and agreements, to make consequential amendments to various other Acts; and to provide for matters connected with and incidental thereto.

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