Consumer liberties top KIPPRA forum

June 6, 2011

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 6 – The Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis (KIPPRA) held a workshop on Monday to discuss regulatory reforms and consumer law regulations in view of the consumer protection provision in the new Constitution.

With rising consumer prices and the current fuel price controls by the government, stakeholders from various regulatory sectors explored consumer rights protection options that could be included in the Consumer Protection draft Bill.

KIPPRA Private Sector Development Division Head, Joe Kieyah said the Bill should be geared towards maximising consumer welfare to facilitate competition among companies and eventually stabilise prices.

"If consumer protection is synonymous with maximisation of consumer welfare, then you will be operating at an efficient market. The way you measure an efficient market is to make sure the additional benefits you incur from providing an extra unit is equal to the additional cost you incur," he said.

Mr Kieyah also encouraged protection of competition, in the consumer legislation, to benefit consumers in paying lower tariffs.

"Competition is good because it forces the producers charge lower prices. If a company charges lower prices so be it, because the consumer benefits. It is for the consumer to decide if the lower prices are sustainable, not the market. The government needs to protect competition. If a company cannot compete they should exit," he said.

With five statutes that provide consumer protection already in place, Mr Kieyah emphasised the need for more efficient enforcement, by keeping regulators accountable.

"We want to make sure they [government] regulate efficiently. If the consumer is not active with the enforcement aspect, they get a raw deal. Consumers don\’t get involved and prices go up.  If the consumers made noise the regulators would be able to do a better job," he said.

Also speaking at the workshop, Professor David Cousins from the Centre for Regulatory Studies at Monash University in Australia, said in order for Kenya to improve regulator performance, putting a management system in place was imperative to drive regulatory reform.

Some approaches that Prof Cousins mentioned would be beneficial in the reform process, include improving governance arrangements, enhance coordination and oversight of regulators and most importantly consolidate regulatory agencies.

"Often, regulators are very small scale and based on specific industries. An alternative approach would be to establish theme-based regulators to increase efficiency, increase capacity to perform tasks and reduce industry capture," he said.

Ultimately Prof Cousins said there are substantial benefits to be obtained from regulatory reform in terms of increasing productivity and economic growth for the country.

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