Ethiopia is beefing up its competition and consumer protection regulations in an effort to make its business environment safer for both domestic and foreign firms.
The country’s Trade Competition and Consumer Protection Authority (TCCPA) is partnering with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) to implement and enforce its Trade Competition and Consumer Protection Proclamation, introduced in March 2014. At the request of the Ethiopian government, Unctad will provide technical assistance to the TCCPA to ensure fair trade practices and ethical market conduct to protect both consumers and companies.
Ethiopia opened its markets in 1992, and has since increasingly promoted private investment and privatisation of state-owned enterprises. The east African country has implemented a number of reforms in the past 23 years, including devaluation of its currency, deregulation of domestic prices and foreign trade liberalisation.
A country of 94 million, Ethiopia offers a cheap labour force, strategic location and a vast domestic raw materials base. Its trade ministry has been actively pursuing private investment in the young market. Competition and consumer protection laws are seen as essential to ensuring a competitive free market and fair business climate for Ethiopians and investors.
The TCCPP’s aims, as set out by its terms, are to “protect the business community from anti-competitive and unfair market practices, and also consumers from misleading market conducts”.
The TCCPP’s mandates are directed primarily at the local entities in charge of investment, prosecution and judicial responsibilities. Unctad will aid the country’s trade authority by helping lay out a plan for implementation of the new consumer and competition protection laws, and will help establish a steering committee starting in the first quarter of 2015. The project covers the areas of “policy and legal framework, institutional framework, enforcement capacity building, and advocacy for competition and consumer protection”, according to Unctad.
Main points of the proclamation include prohibition of abuse of market dominance, anti-competitive agreements and concerted practices that lessen competition, and “misleading or deceptive acts” deemed harmful to competition. It requires notification and TCCPA approval of mergers, “sufficient information” for customers concerning the price and quality of goods, integrity of commercial advertisements, respectful treatment of customers by businesses and compensation in the case of damages suffered by the consumer.