Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Ambassador Robin R. Sanders' Remarks at The Technical Workshop on Consumenr Protection

U.S. Ambassador Robin R. Sanders


Technical Workshop on Consumenr Protection

Organized by U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in partnership with the Consumer Protection Council (CPC)

July 13th – 14th, 2009, Abuja

Good morning ladies and gentlemen!

All protocols duly observed.

It is a pleasure to be here to witness this collaboration between the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Nigerian Consumer Protection Council (CPC) on consumer protection. This conference is timely. Cases of fraudulent advertising and internet fraud are common nowadays not only in developed countries, but consumers need to be protected against these transgressions of justice also in the developing world.

Consumer protection ensures truthful information is provided to consumers on products and services. It means educating consumers so that they may better protect themselves.

Consumers need to be protected against fraud, deception and other unfair practices. Laws and regulations on advertising must emphasize truth-in-advertising for products such as food, over-the-counter drugs, dietary supplements, alcohol and tobacco.

Today’s newest and most dynamic marketplace is the internet. Online commerce is booming in the developed world, and the developing world is also catching on. The internet gives consumers more choice and 24-hour a day, 7-day a week convenience. You can buy so many goods online, and on the business side, it gives established marketers and creative entrepreneurs low-cost access to a virtually unlimited customer base. Online advertising has also grown tremendously over the years. However, while the internet has revolutionized the way business is done it also has brought with it new challenges such as online advertising fraud.

A component of the current global economic and financial crisis in the U.S. is the so-called “liar loan” which has had negative effects on borrowers either through credit cards or mortgages. Some people were given loans that they did not have the ability to pay back from the onset, or in some other cases there were hidden charges, which of course was deception on the part of the financial institutions offering such products. Some of these issues are also common in other jurisdictions, and probably in Nigeria. The Obama administration has proposed a “Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA) to write new rules and have enforcement powers in mortgages, credit cards, and other similar products. This proposal is part of the administration’s broader proposal unveiled on June 17, 2009 to reform the U.S. financial sector, and underscores the importance of consumer protection. Under the proposal, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which has taken the lead on many of these issues, will continue to prosecute bogus business opportunity, mortgage foreclosure rescue, and other financial frauds. In addition, the FTC may also have additional rulemaking and civil penalty authority.

Governments have a responsibility to protect consumers against unwholesome practices from fraudulent producers and marketers. Competition is a very important weapon in consumer protection. It benefits consumers through lower prices, improved quality, greater consumer choice, and increased innovation. Governments must encourage competition and protect the competitive process from abuses such as cartels, abuse of market dominance, and mergers that would lead to price increases.

Though the government has a role to play in consumer protection, consumers also have the responsibility to educate themselves on the various products and services on offer. Education is the first line of defense against fraud and deception; it can help you make well-informed decisions before you spend your money.

I have looked at the conference agenda and I have seen that we have an extraordinary program planned for the next two days. I hope all participants will take note and use the lessons learned from this conference not only to improve their skills on the job but also to protect consumers.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s sponsorship of this conference demonstrates the United States Government’s commitment to improving the U.S. – Nigeria bilateral relationship and continuous support in building local capacity on a variety of issues.

I also want to thank all of you for creating time from your very busy schedule to attend this conference and U.S FTC officials for their support. I want to express my sincere appreciation to officials of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Consumer Protection Council, officials of other Government of Nigeria agencies, and other stakeholders for organizing this important conference.

I wish you all fruitful deliberations.

Thank you!