It has become a norm, a tradition, and a culture in this country. Annually, at the eleventh hour of the feast for both Koriteh and Tobaski – prices are hiked. Ranging from basic goods that are highly on demand during these moments to fares of public transportation as consumers prepare for feasts. The magnitude of exploitation they undergo each year is indescribable. Drivers like businesses capitalize on the increase in demand for transport and adjust fares for consumer passengers unjustifiably. Most businesses in The Gambia are run by foreign merchants, however, commercial transport is predominantly Gambian drivers and Gambian car owners, yet fares are indiscriminately increased just because the demand rises.
This is injustice and fall short to safeguard consumer protection rights as stated in Gambia Consumer Protection Act 2014, section (b) subsection (6), (11) (k) making false or misleading statements of fact concerning the reasons for; the existence of, or amounts of price reduction; or (i)engaging in any other conduct which similarly creates a likelihood of confusion or of misunderstanding for consumers. This is the reality on the ground and Gambian consumers continue to be at the mercy of the drivers and businesses alike. There are government-approved tariffs for commercial transportation but somehow, drivers in the Gambia are not subjected to these tariffs each year at this time of the season. They reinvent their own tariffs with rigidity, arrogance, and sheer contempt. The Gambia Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (GCCPC) is mandated to administer this act, however, issues such as these are considered trivial even by the government because ‘they are not affected, so why care!’ So if not the government, not GCCPC, who protects Gambian consumers like passengers from misleading trade in commercial transport?
To put it bluntly, The ‘Gambian’ can be a very mean compatriot. This country lacks patriots, nationalists, and genuine citizens that are compassionate and empathic towards their fellows. So long there is no authority looking over them, each can do the most dubious thing to their colleague while vulnerable. Hence, it has become barely doable to put this country into its right shape. Many a time, we cast blames on the authorities, and the government, while it is ourselves that are inflicting certain unearned sufferings on us. And often, we’re not oblivious of these facts, because it has not been denounced but accepted, and normalized by ourselves – the exploited. Others would argue that most Gambians are not informed of their consumer rights or where to seek redress when these rights are abused, which is true to some extent but also the nonchalant attitudes of many of us made it easy for businesses, and service providers to take us for granted. We have the purchasing power, and there’s no business that can thrive without consumers, until and unless we are conscious of this, we would remain at their mercy.
Consumers can choose to buy or boycott a service or product if such products and services fall short to protect their rights and safeguard their welfare. In essence, consumers can hold businesses and service providers to meaningful accountability without relevant authorities- by simply wielding our purchasing power. This suggests that Gambian consumers ought to acquaint themselves with consumer protection rights as enshrined in the CPA 2014. The power lies within us, ‘We The People’, but so long we are unable to wield this power, our rights would mean nothing, more so, we would remain at the mercy of service providers and businesses.