"Consumers must be empowered, protected and educated about their rights in order to enhance their trust in digital trade, as they play an important role in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, in particular goals 8, 9, 10, 12, 16 and 17," said UNCTAD's Associate Legal Officer Arnau Izaguerri, at the E-commerce week 2017 held from 24-28 April in Geneva.
"This contribution will go a long way as competition and consumer protection play an important role in promoting economic growth and reducing poverty,” said UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi
Developing economies are particularly vulnerable to anticompetitive practices. Poor business infrastructure and complex regulatory and licensing regimes make it harder for companies to enter these markets. Often the policies, laws and regulations are not sufficiently robust, while enforcement agencies lack the capacity to effectively detect and tackle many instances of anticompetitive behavior. Furthermore, citizens, and businesses are less aware of the importance of competition and of consumer protection and do not exercise their rights or fulfil their responsibilities. Consumer protection legislation empowers consumers for informed choices adjusted to their needs and means and encourage consumers to play an active role in the market, contributing for dynamic markets.
Increasingly, many competition and consumer protection problems have a cross border component. Companies and supply chains are international, while competition and consumer protection laws and enforcement agencies are primarily national. Individual countries have struggled to address anticompetitive and unfair trade practices at the international level, which requires regional and global collaboration to set and enforce the applicable rules.
The new programme will focus on the following countries: Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, the Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea and São Tome and Principe.
The programme will carry out the following activities:
1. Raising Awareness on the benefits of competition policy and consumer protection law and policy and its contribution to development;
2. Adapting member States legislation and procedures on both fields for the effective implementation of the competition and consumer policies rules at national and regional levels;
3. Reorganizing competition and consumer protection institutions in Central Africa;
4. Providing competition and consumer protection officials with relevant tools for an effective implementation of the Community's competition and consumer protection rules.
"The project will strengthen the establishment of a new institutional architecture for the enforcement of competition and consumer policies in Central Africa', said Yves Kenfack UNCTAD Project Officer.
UNCTAD has vast experience in providing technical assistance and capacity building on competition and consumer protection policies and laws at national and regional levels globally. Its most successful regional programme is COMPAL (Competencia y Protección del Consumidor en America Latina – Competition and Consumer Protection for Latin America), which has been running for over 14 years, currently being on its third edition.