Monday, 18 March 2013

Shelf Labelling versus Unit Prices

In last month’s Consumer News Namibia Magazine, I wrote about the unit pricing on shelves. This refers to the practice of indicating the prices per unit (kilogramme, litre, single product in bilk packs, etc.) I had a chance to travel around Namibia during the past few weeks I was fortunate to travel around the country taking tourists to places such as Swakopmund, Walvis Bay and Okahandja. While visiting the towns I took the opportunity to visit the most common shopping places. I noticed with some joy that there are a few shops who already label their products for the convenience of the consumer. I must commend Shoprite on having almost all their products labelled with the unit price clearly indicated, while Pick & Pay has around half of their products labelled – it is perhaps just laziness at the IT department to fill in all the fields correctly in their central system as the labels already have place to indicate the unit price?  In my cursory examination at OK and Fruit and Veg, I did not find any of the products with unit prices indicated.

This was rather strange as these South African stores have the regulations and laws in South Africa, but clearly do not yet bother with our Namibian consumers till they have a law to force them. In addition, the Namibian chain store, Woermann & Brock, did not have unit pricing and I hope they consider changing this soon.  After all as a Namibian owned chain store they have moved into South Africa where I am sure they obey the South African rules.

After reading my article quite a few people contacted me about shelf pricing they see when they pick up the product and put into their basket – but find to their horror there is another price in the “computer systems” and the cashier can do nothing about it.

Whooa – as Al Pacino would say. That is not problem as a consumer. The store cannot make their problem yours. They are responsible for correctly pricing the goods on the shelves if they do not wish to price each product individually.

I had some difficulty finding the applicable laws governing commercial transactions before Independence – as these laws are still applicable until repealed by the Parliament in a Namibia Consumer Act. But, when I search through the training manuals of the Namibian Police’s Commercial Branch and found the following list (as of the day of Independence) that were applicable still in Namibia:
·         Merchandise Marks Act, 1941 (Act No. 17 of 1941),
·         Business Names Act, 1960 (Act No. 27 of 1960),
·         Price Control Act, 1964 (Act No.25 of 1964),
·         Sales and Service Matters Act, 1964 (Act No. 25 of 1964),
·         Trade Practices Act, 1976 (Act No. 76 of 1976)

This is a very interesting fact. Thus our police are able to interfere in consumer versus business matters – also on the side of the consumer. Next time this happens to you, offer to call the police unless they offer you the product at the shelf indicated price. Yes, they may even end up in jail if they do not comply.

I wonder how long before our business community will now take to also push for the creation of a Consumer Protection Act that clearly stipulates their responsibilities in the new day and age.

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