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Unlocking digital Ethiopia: Experts converge on consumer protection views

Experts underline the necessity of comprehensive consumer protection regulations and robust institutions for the success of government’s ambition of a sturdy digital economy.
On June 1, FSD Ethiopia held a knowledge series on consumer protection with practitioners in digital finance, regulation, and service providers who discussed policy frameworks, dispute resolution, and fraud prevention systems needed in digital finance.
“There are several gaps identified in Ethiopian consumer protection including limitation in scope as it only covers goods and services traded for money, leaving out bartered goods and services. There is also lack of resources and expertise in enforcing consumer protection laws in Ethiopia, which results in low efficacy,” highlighted MesfinTafesse, CEO of MesfinTafesse and Associates Law Office while speaking at the event.
Mesfin also indicated that consumer protection law was an important area of law that aims to protect the rights of consumers and ensure that they are not mistreated or deceived by businesses.
In retrospect, Ethiopia has a Consumer Protection Proclamation that was enacted in 2013. The law was designed to protect consumers’ rights, ensure fair competition, and prevent deceptive business practices. The proclamation includes provisions such as requirements for product labeling, protections against misleading advertising, regulations for product safety standards, and procedures for consumer complaints and remedies. However, the implementation of the law does not provide enough level of protection for consumers in the country.
“In Ethiopia, there are several laws and regulations that aim to protect consumers, including the Ethiopian Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Proclamation, which was enacted in 2018. But they lack integration,” stated Mesfin.
As he explains, inadequate redress mechanisms, weakness in product liability, and incomplete disclosure are some of the gaps of consumer protection law when it comes to practice.
In similar lines, the country also established an independent trade competition and Consumer Protection Authority to oversee and enforce consumer protection laws following the ratification of the consumer protection law
However, Proclamation No. 1263/2021, transfers the powers and liabilities of the TCCPA to the Ministry of Trade and Regional Integration. The TCCPA in practice, ceased to be an independent authority, and has replaced its name with that of the Ministry of Trade and Regional Integration.
To this end, in the event, Mesfin described this as a lack of strong institution with regards to identifiable challenges plaguing the rights of consumers.
“Consumer protection in the digital economy refers to the measures in place to ensure that consumers are protected while buying goods and services online. This includes; laws, regulations, and policies that are designed to safeguard consumers’ interests, prevent fraudulent practices, and preserve their privacy and data security,” elaborated Wangombe Kariuki, former Director General of Kenya competition commission whilst speaking at the event.

(Photo: Anteneh Aklilu)

“As our lives become increasingly digital and online transactions become more common, consumer protection in the digital economy is becoming even more important. It is therefore essential for individuals, businesses, and policymakers to work together to create a safe, secure, and fair digital marketplace,” he sensitized.
As indicated in the series, some ways in which consumer protection is ensured in the digital economy include; having secure payment platforms, clearly stated terms and conditions, transparent pricing, refund policies, and protection against identity theft and fraud.
Experts suggested for government regulatory bodies and watchdog organizations to also play a key role in protecting consumers by monitoring digital commerce practices and in ensuring that they comply with relevant laws and regulations.
“The digital economy is an increasingly important part of the global economy, and similarly, in Ethiopia, the government is working towards developing a digital economy. This includes the promotion of e-commerce and online transactions, and the establishment of regulatory frameworks to support digital businesses,” stated Muhidin Shifa, Principal Financial Inclusion, Consumer Protection and Financial Education Officer at the National Bank of Ethiopia.
“It is worth noting that the Ethiopian Government is taking steps to address these gaps. Additionally, there are efforts to promote cybersecurity and protect consumers from fraud and other digital crimes as Ethiopia is still developing its digital economy and consumer protection laws,” Muhidin elaborated on steps taken by government.
As indicated on the stage, in terms of consumer protection in the context of the digital economy, the Ethiopian government has to make efforts to protect consumers by requiring e-commerce businesses to provide clear information about their products and services, as well as their policies on returns, refunds, and warranties.


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