(First appeared in New Era 17 June 2015)
The past few weeks have been very hectic in the Shaanika-Louw household as Captain Adorable starts on the journey of “real foods”. Waking up at night to soothe a crying child brings reality to a parent on what we do in the hope of giving our child the best opportunity in life.
Regardless of how young our children are, all parents worry about the day the child is going to be grown up enough to leave the nest. This is why we take out study insurance policies etc. as we consider whether we, as the parents, will be able to give our children that “right start” to life with a quality education.
The Ministry of Industrialisation, Trade and SME Development is in the final stages of submitting the Consumer Protection Policy and Act to Cabinet before it goes to the legal drafters for submission as a Bill to Parliament. The technical committee responsible for the process must be commended for looking at a principle-based approach rather than a rule-based regulation environment for Namibia.
Without going into too much legalese, this means that under the proposed Namibia Consumer Protection Act, the regulator will work on the “ex post” application principle. In other words, the regulatory principle is applied against specific conduct of a regulated entity ONLY AFTER the conduct has occurred. This is in comparison to a “ex ante” determination principle where the regulator must state exactly what the regulated entity must, or must not, do to comply with the rules before the business engages in the conduct.
Lying in the dark after the Captain has fallen back to sleep allows me to reflect on what exactly the consumer protection environment will mean – not only for me and mine, but also for you and yours in this country. For most of my life I have been engaged in the teaching profession, first as an IT Junior Lecturer and later as a distance tutor at a local education institution offering Cambridge University qualifications.
This very important industry (yes it is a business) has mushroomed in the past few years with the only regulations seeming to come from the Namibian Qualifications Authority (NQA). The NQA has the responsibility of evaluating the educational institution, and more specifically the actual courses the institution provides. In other words, the education institution you send your child to might be accredited, but the actual course your child is following might not be a recognised NQA qualification.
Under our present laws there is very little that a parent can do once their child has completed course and they find out that it is not recognised in the work environment. After all, we all expect that once our child has received a quality (expensive) education that this will allow them to get a good paying position that they may be able to care for themselves. If this happens to you, you have very little recourse to the law as Namibia still adheres to the principle of “buyer beware” or in Latin, “Caveat Emptor”.
Under the proposed new consumer law, the regulator will be able to take action against such educational institutions which mislead the consumer as to the specifics of the course or area of study being NQA recognised compared to just being a “NQA registered” institution. This will be done not only through a complaint resolution given by a consumer, but also formal investigation and the civil investigative demand (CID).
Plainly put, under the new proposed law, the Consumer Protection Commission (CPC) will be able to research and identify seller(s) that violate the principles of the law, and undertake formal investigation on behalf of a group of consumers experiencing similar problems. If the CPC finds that there has been a violation of the law, they will be able to enforce the appropriate remedial action as well as penalties for the violation. This penalty or fine might also include refunding of consumers monies, even if that specific consumer was not one of the consumer who originally brought the complaint.
Knowing this law is on its way will certain make my sleep come a little easier, that is if Captain Adorable allows it.