Government Regulation of Prices of Basic Commodities: a Perspective on Consumer Protection
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This study looks at Government Regulation of Prices of Basic Commodities: a Perspective on Consumer Protection. This project begins by describing how trade used to be by barter, that is, goods were exchanged for other goods, but due to the difficulties and limitation of this method of trade money was introduced and it became the medium of exchange. Due to what money was able to do for man, manufacturers and service providers began to exploit the vulnerable consumers.
This leads to the research problem which examines government intervention in the area of price homologation of basic commodities and whether this price homologation and market control actually protects the consumer. Another issue examined in the work is whether the consumer is aware of the work government is doing to protect him and whether the latter cooperates with government agents to fight fraud in the market place.
This research goes further to talk about the law No 2015/018 of 21 December 2015 governing Commercial Activities in Cameroon explaining some of the sanctions in case of default. This work ends with a conclusion and some recommendations to the stakeholders that could lead to better protection of consumers.
In practice, power often lies to the greater extend with the producer than with the consumer. Most firms operate under conditions of imperfect competition with manufacturers and producers being able to restrict output and raise prices of goods. The phenomenon can also be observed at the level of economic operators when they create artificial scarcity in order to increase prices.
Around 600 BC, trade was carried out by barter, which is a system of exchange where goods and or services were directly exchanged for goods and or services. Goods were exchanged for food, tea, weapons, spices and salt. In fact in the Middle Ages, Europeans travelled around the world to barter crafts and furs in exchange for silks and perfumes.
However, the barter system had some limitations. Firstly, there had to be a double coincidence of wants, secondly, there was the lack of a common measure of value, thirdly, there was indivisibility of certain goods, fourthly, the other person did not have any proof or certification that there was a legitimate transaction and there was consumer protection or warranties involved.
Following the above setbacks of the barter system, money was introduced in other than the exchange of goods and services may take place more easily. It also encouraged specialisation. Money is and on itself is nothing, but it derives its value by being a medium of exchange, a unit of measurement and a storehouse of wealth.
It allows people to trade goods and services indirectly, understand the price of goods and give away to save larger purchases in the future.it is above all valuable because everyone else will accept it as a form of payment.
Due to the value placed on money manufacturers and service providers determine prices following the forces of demand and supply in a bid to amass as much money as possible. This is especially son in a free market economy where the economy is at the whim of businessmen who usually care about profit over people, and there is no government interference and hence monopoly price setting
However there is no free market in the real world as the government always intervene by putting some type of constraints in the allocation of resources and the exchange of goods and services; for example, the setting of minimum wages by many governments around the world. Take the case of a free market like the United States; it regulates itself by allowing the firms to set their prices
. It allows businesses to seek new growth opportunities, providing them with an incentive to realise a higher profit. As a result, the competition gets more intense as firms are competing in a perfect competition setting. In such a system, the price is finished goods and services are declining but there are a greater variety of high-quality products.
In fact, a free market uses all of its resources to generate a profit offering to the consumer efficient production of goods and services that’s meet their needs, offered at the lower possible prices and at the highest qualities. Thus the US has designed anti-trust laws (also known as competition laws in other English speaking countries) to regulate the conduct of business and promote fair competition towards the protection of consumers.
Due to the free market economy operating in Cameroon, there is a need for government intervention in order to protect the consumer who finds himself in a very vulnerable situation. The government has intervened amongst other domains in the area of price homologation of basic commodities, alternatively referred to as products of mass consumption and in the area of promoting and ensuring fair market competition.
The question here is whether this government effort actually protects the consumer. Another aspect that shall be investigated in this work is to find out to what extent consumers appreciate the regulation measures of the government on prices; does the consumer cooperate with the government in its effort to protect him.
By the end of this study, these questions and even a few others not mentioned shall be answered in a bid to sensitive the consumer on government endeavour to make basic commodities available to him at affordable prices and how he can cooperate with the government by denouncing unscrupulous economic operators.
This work and it’s subject matter are relevant to the advancement of law in that it shall lead to a better understanding of consumer protection laws enshrined in LAW N• 90/031 of 10 August 1990 organising commercial activities on CAMEROON. We shall see the composition of this law and its text of application later in the course of this work.
The lack of knowledge on government’s efforts through the ministry of trade and other affiliated organs like ANOR( Agency for Norms and Quality in Cameroon), SNH( Hydrocarbon price stabilisation Fund), National Cocoa and Coffee Board, and MIRAP( Consumer Product Supply Regulatory Authority) and others to ameliorate the living standard of citizens puts the latter at the mercy of unscrupulous economic operators and even state Agents who most often infringe on their rights. This study therefore shall throw more lights and increase awareness of consumers on their rights via-à-bid economic operators and state Agents.
This research aims at investigating the regulation of prices of basic commodities by the government in a bid to protect the consumer.it also aims at bringing to the limelight the efforts put in place by the government to fight against unfair trade practices, promoting fair competition, avoid dumping hence ensuring consumer protection in the country.
The study also aims at appreciating the regulatory mechanism Ld put in place by the state and how these mechanisms guarantee the wellbeing of the consumer. Finally, the real search will assess the response of consumers towards these regulatory mechanisms and whether the consumer is protected after all. Hence the specific objectives include;
- Throwing more light on government regulation of prices,
- Defining what basic commodities are
- Understanding who a consumer is, and also what consumer protection means
- Creating awareness among consumers on their rights and duties vis-à-vis economic operators and other stakeholders.
Looking at the research topic, it is imperative that a definition of key concepts and terms be made. These key concepts and terms include:
- Government regulation
- Consumer protection
According to the Cambridge Business English dictionary, government regulation means a law that consoles the way that business can operate, or of course laws considered together. See law N• 90/031 of August 1990 in the case of Cameroon.
From the Cambridge English dictionary, the term price is defined as the amount of money for which something is sold.
These are goods that are essential for life or some process. They are also called products of mass consumption. (Cambridge English dictionary)
A consumer is a person who purchases goods and services for personal use. He can also be said to be a person or organisation that uses economic services or commodities. (Cambridge English dictionary)
1.4.5 CONSUMER PROTECTION
This refers to the protection of buyers of goods and services against low quality or dangerous products and advertisements that deceive people. In other words, consumer protection means protecting the rights of consumers. It also helps to protect fair trade competition and truthful information in a market economy. Various laws and organisations are designed to do this. The laws are designed to stop companies using unfair practices to gain an advantage over their competitors. (Cambridge English dictionary)