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Consumer Protection Council spells punishment on harmful drinks, vows to protect consumers against exploitation.

Consumer Protection Council News

The Consumer Protection Council in Nigeria (CPC) has directed  Coca-Cola Nigeria Limited and the Nigerian Bottling Company to subject their manufacturing processes to the Council’s inspection for a period of twelve months in compliance with  safety standards and regulations; saying it is determined to fully protect Nigerian consumers from the unwholesome practices of multi-national and local companies.

The Director-General of  CPC, Dupe Atoki confirmed the recent findings that the can content  of Sprite drinks manufactured by the NBC under the Coca-Coca Nigeria Limited  licence  have been unfit for human consumption in a press briefing on ‘Investigation into Violation of Product Quality Standards by the Nigerian Bottling Company and Coca-Cola Nigeria Limited’, in Lagos on Tuesday February 19, 2014.

‘The CPC is a parastatal under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment empowered by the Consumer Protection Council Act Cap 25, LFN 2004  to among others provide speedy redress to consumers’ complaints; remove hazardous products from the market; cause any offending company to protect, compensate and provide relief to injured consumers as well as encourage the adoption of appropriate measures towards ensuring  that products are safe for intended usages; ban the sale of products which do not comply with safety or health regulations; undertake investigation into consumer abuses and prosecute violators of all enactments on the protection of consumers,’ she revealed.

Dupe Atoki added that pursuant to a consumer complaint received by the CPC regarding two half-empty cans of Sprite products manufactured by NBC under the licence and authority of Coca Cola, the Council in accordance with its Act, investigated the complaint and found among other things that the cans of Sprite drinks were defective and had health and safety implications for consumers.

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According to her, ‘pursuant to a consumer complaint received by the Consumer Protection Council regarding two half empty cans of Sprite products manufactured by the Nigerian Bottling Company Plc under the licence and authority of Coca Cola Nigeria Limited, the Council in accordance with the Consumer Protection Council Act commenced an investigation into the complaint on the 6th day of September 2013 and gave notice thereof to the Nigerian Bottling Company Plc and Coca Cola Nigeria Limited.’

She also explained that the Council has set up a panel which invited the two companies for their responses on the complaint with latitude of opportunities offered to them to make representations, provide information and address sundry issues relating to the complaint as well as their operations. The Nigerian Bottling Company, he noted cooperated with the Council in the investigation, whilst Coca-Cola Nigeria Limited in contravention exhibited a hostile and flagrant approach to the Council’s proceedings and refused to undergo the investigation processes.

Further on the activities of the Council, the DG of CPC revealed that the Council  prior to the complaint has received similar information concerning the use of rusted bottle tops, rusty cans and foreign particles in beverage products of the Nigerian Bottling Company under the license of Coca-Cola Nigeria Limited. She stated that the panel after five hearings held between September 2013 and February 2014 has confirmed the alleged product defect and violation of the Consumer Protection Council Act.

“Though the investigation was premised on two half-filled cans of Sprite, it has led to a plethora of other findings among which are: that the cans of Sprite are the products of the Nigerian Bottling Company under license of Coca-Coca Nigeria Limited; that the cans of Sprite were defective and had health and safety implications for consumers; that the Nigerian Bottling Company does not have a detailed written shelf life policy for dealing with expired products and that the Nigerian Bottling Company’s grievance resolution policy does not cover instances where the consumer suffers physical injury from consumption or compensation in instances where replacement will be inadequate,” she indicated.

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Other findings, according to the CPC include the assertion that the NBC’s supply-chain management does not extend to retailers whom majority of Nigerian consumers buy their products  and  that the NBC’s traceability policy has not been able to effectively address the real purpose as the company needs to get reliable information about the place of purchase of the product.

The DG in view of the above situation averred that the Council has made far reaching recommendations for system change in the Nigerian Bottling Company and Coca-Cola Nigeria Limited. She also issued an order with clear directions on standards compliance in all the areas that the companies were found wanting.

“The Order requires the Nigerian Bottling Company and Coca-Cola Nigeria Limited to subject their manufacturing processes to the Council’s inspection for a period of twelve months to ensure compliance with safety standards and regulations; formulate and make available to the Council a Shelf Life Policy within ninety days to facilitate the removal of expired products from the market,” she explained.

According to the CPC Boss, Coca Cola and the NBC have been directed to pay compensation to the consumer whose complaint triggered the investigation; review within ninety days their Grievance Resolution Policy to address compensation for injuries, or compensation in instances where replacement will be inadequate; review their supply chain management policy within ninety days to include retailers, in order to minimise the distribution of defective, non-conforming or expired products; review within ninety days their traceability policy to make it easier for the companies to track their products without necessarily requesting purchase information from the consumer; compensate the consumer whose complaint necessitated the investigation and pay civil penalties to act as deterrent.

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She also reported that the Order of Council has been served on the NBC and Coca-Cola Nigeria Limited, pointing out that disobedience to the Order of the Council is punishable upon conviction to a three years jail term or a fine. She continued that the Coca-Cola Company is the world’s largest soft drink company with revenue of about $12.03 billion in 2013. ‘The brand is very popular in Nigeria and in 2013, it rolled out over three billion bottles of its products in the country. As the largest black nation in the world, Nigeria accounts for a large portion of Coca-Cola Company’s market share,’ she observed.

She re-affirmed the commitment of CPC towards protecting the interest of Nigerian consumers, adding that the agency would continue to ensure that all manufacturers and service providers adhere to international best practices. “Our concern is for the health of Nigerian consumers who may suffer injuries from the consumption of products that do not meet the required safety standards or health regulations,” Atoki said.

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