Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) says without regulating how minibus owners come up with future minibus fares, hikes will bring more confusion and hardship on consumers.
Cama executive director, John Kapito was reacting to a recent Minibus Owners Association of Malawi (Moam) decision to reverse the recommended fixed minibus fares that were circulated on September 11 2012 as a result of the rise in fuel prices on the local market.
In a press statement published in the media on Friday, Moam secretary general Coaxley Kamange advised its members to charge and adjust minibus fares as they wish, taking into account the recent devaluation and subsequent floatation of the kwacha as well as the fuel charges as and when they occur.
Kapito has since suggested that the regulator should supervise and constantly monitor minibus owners before they raise fares.
â€œThe Competition and Fair Trading Law and the Consumer Protection Law which, among others, recognise the existence of associations or cartels such as Moam demand that such associations, for the benefit of their business and protection of the consumer, must submit their intentions to adjust prices to Competition and Fair Trading Commission (CFTC) as a regulator. Once the proposed tariffs and prices have been agreed, then the regulator will publish the recommended and approved prices,â€ he argued.
Kapito proposed, therefore, that the CFTC must be vigilant and take up its role by providing effective regulatory guidelines to the minibus owners.
However, CFTC acting executive director Wezzie Malonda said on Tuesday the organisation could not necessarily approve the fares, but if Moam consulted them on any proposed minibus fare increments, they could help on what to do.
â€œAs an organisation, CFTC regulates competition not prices. We can only come in if there is excessive pricing that is ripping customers off. The Competition and Fair Trading Act prohibits cartels, they are criminal offences according to the act,â€ she said.
But Kapito said consumers will hold the CFTC liable for any chaos and pain that consumers will experience as a result of its failure to provide the regulatory direction and framework for purposes of ensuring that the minibus industry operates in a manner that assists the consumer better.