The Consumer Protection Council (CPC) yesterday came down hard on Coca-Cola and the Nigerian Bottling Company, (NBC) with a threat of severe sanctions after it found the companies wanting on product quality.
“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 were defective and had health and safety implications for consumers,” Dupe Atoki, Director-General, CPC, said yesterday in Lagos.
Coca- Cola promptly issued a statement rebuffing the CPC claim. In their reaction, the company expressed commitment to quality standards, adding however that information regarding high quality standards were made available to the council, saying “It is regrettable that the Council’s conclusions and recommendations do not appear to have acknowledged the information.
“As responsible organizations, NBC and CCNL take all matters relating to products very seriously and remain committed to maintaining the highest international quality management and food safety standards and certifications. Because consumers are at the heart of everything we do, both organizations also take a responsive approach towards satisfying customers and consumers,” according to a release jointly signed by Adeyanju Olomola and Clem Ugorji of NBC and Coca-Cola respectively.
Atoki, whose power is derived from the Council’s Act cap 25, LFN 2004 admonished the global company to ensure that its products are the same in content and quality worldwide, adding that she is committed to ensuring that consumers get value for their money.
CPC said that while NBC cooperated with the council in the investigation, CocaCola Nigeria limited, in contravention of applicable law, elected to adopt a rather hostile and flagrant approach to the council by failing or neglecting to attend or produce documents in its possession.
The CPC chief said that they are taking sectoral approach to ensuring standards compliance, adding that the Council is meeting with the chief executives of telecommunications concerns over poor quality of service, adding that the council is not looking at challenges of doing businesses as often being advanced by the companies, but consumers taking value for any money spent.
CPC, under the Act is expected to provide speedy redress to consumers’ complaints, remove hazardous products from the market, cause an offending company to protect, compensate and provide relief to injured consumers, ban the sale of products which do not comply with safety or health regulations, undertake investigation of consumer abuse and prosecute violators of all enactments for protecting consumers, among others.
The director-general said that the panel that was set up, after five hearings, held between September 2013 and February, 2014 substantiated the allegation of product defect and violation of consumer protection Council Act.
She added that though the investigation was premised on two half filled cans of sprite, it led to a plethora of findings, among which included the fact that the company does not have a detailed written shelf life policy for dealing with expired products; that its grievance resolution policy does not have cover instances where the consumer suffers physical injury from consumption or compensation in instances where replacement will be inadequate.
Also, that the company’s supply chain management does not extend to retailers who the bulk of Nigerian consumers buy their products from and the company’s traceability policy fails to effectively address the real purpose, as the company often relies on information as to place of purchase of the product.
Consequently, she said that the company will henceforth subject their manufacturing process to the Council’s inspection for a period of 12 months to ensure compliance with safely standards and regulations, formulate and make available to the Council, a shelf life policy within 90 days to facilitate the removal of expired products from the market.
It will also review within 90 days, its Grievance Resolution policy to address compensation for injuries, or compensation, in instances where the replacement will be inadequate, review their supply chain management policy within 90 days to include retailers in order to minimise the distribution of defective non-conforming or expired products.
The company will also review within 90 days, its traceability policy to make it easier for the companies to track their products without necessarily requesting purchase information from consumer, compensate the consumer whose complaint necessitated the investigation and pay civil penalties to act as deterrent
The DG added that the Order of Council had been served on NBC and Coca-Cola Nigeria, pointing out that “it is worth noting that disobedience to the Order of the Council is punishable upon conviction, with three years jail term or a fine.”
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. In 2013, it rolled out over 3 billion bottles of its product in the country.
By: John Omachonu