Competition and Fair Trading Commission (CFTC) executive director Charlotte Wezi Malonda is leaving the institution after steering it for seven years amid low funding to the State agency mandated to promote fair trading and consumer protection.
In a written response to a questionnaire yesterday, she said the commission adopted its first five-year strategic plan covering the period 2015 to 2020 which it has been using as a roadmap, consequently increasing the case load by 230 percent although their budget has not increased by the same margin.
Malonda said: “This, essentially, means that the commission has to rely on more efficient ways of handling cases without compromising on natural justice principles and at the same time restricting itself with what is within its legal mandate.
“The increase in the number of cases registered from 176 in the previous year to 231 in 2017/18 represents a 31 percent increase in the number of cases received. We attribute this to increased advocacy and awareness campaigns undertaken by the commission.
“As a result of thorough investigations and seize and desist order, handling of cases by the commission has been accelerated, thereby ensuring quick restoration of favourable market conditions.
“During my tenure, there has been speedy resolution of consumer complaints which led to a 583 percent increase in monetary refunds to consumers from K6.3 million recovered in the first two years to K42.7 million recovered during the review period.”
In terms of fair trading practices, she said in 2017/18 financial year alone, the rate of compliance stood at 54 percent based on business inspections while in terms of compliance with its orders, the commission only faced four appeals in the recent past out of 116 cases, reflecting a three percent challenge.
“This is a clear positive indication of successful self-regulation by the market. However, the biggest compliance challenge remains non-display of prices by shops and display of disclaimers, which is detrimental to consumer welfare and can also have a none-competitive effect as there is possible distortion of prices by traders,” said Malonda.
During her tenure, which started in 2012 and ends on July 31 this year, the commission was recognised by the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) as the best performing statutory corporation (gold class award) for three consecutive years from 2015/16 financial year to date and branded a centre of excellence.
CFTC was established under the Competition and Fair Trading Act of 1998 with the mandate to regulate, monitor, control and prevent acts or behaviours which would negatively affect competition and fair trading in Malawi.