The Director General of the Consumer Protection Council (CPC), Mr Babatunde Irukera, has tasked businesses to understand the signs of times and embrace the new order of prioritising consumer protection as the pre-eminent factor in protecting brand, businesses, managing crisis, building confidence and corporate growth.
Irukera emphasised that customer satisfaction is the most vital pillar of loyalty and trust.
He stated this at a meeting with Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of food and beverage companies and members of the Association of Food, Beverage and Tobacco Employers (AFTBE) in Lagos.
The DG, in statement by the Deputy Director, Public Relations, Abiodun Obimuyiwa on Sunday, noted that customer service cannot be ancillary to business, especially in the food and beverage industry, rather it must be the core of business and operations.
He expressed his gratitude for being invited to a meeting of CEOs because it is an important and powerful gathering and it demonstrates their companies’ resolve to ensure consumer protection, admitting that CEOs are vital to customer satisfaction and economic growth.
Irukera said that President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration recognises the role of business and their CEOs in economic expansion as such is always listening to “credible, transparent, genuine, fair-minded, well-meaning and societally committed businesses”.
The CPC boss argued that consumer protection was more important than Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), noting that CSR is sometimes viewed with “suspicion and characterised as self-serving in part because the companies have not truly satisfied their customers”.
He expressed what he believes is the welcome “optional Corporate Social Responsibility”, but stated his insistence on what he termed “mandatory Corporate Obligatory Responsibility (COR) which is customer service or consumer protection, stressing that, a “vibrant combination of both is the best possible brand and reputational investment possible”.
The CPC boss maintained that “nothing repairs or maintains reputation and eliminates distrust better than fairness to customers and satisfaction in the products they purchase or consume”.
He emphasised the uniformity of CPC’s objective with companies in the association which is to please consumers and this, he said, made the case for industry and CPC collaboration
According to him , “When customer service is at its best, consumers are truly happy, spending is up, economic indicators are encouraging, my job is done, your performance is assured, and your brands endure”.
Irukera further noted that collaboration in consumer protection was not just an imperative, but a sensible approach to a joint objective, pointing out that “for you (businesses), consumer satisfaction is a means to a commercial end, and for me (CPC), its an end in itself and fulfillment of a constitutional duty”.
He pointed out that the global convergence in sophistication and expectations of consumers should be treated fairly and equally irrespective of their location.
He said, “A consumer protection regulatory challenge in any part of the world can damage a brand internationally, so companies should prioritise consumer protection, diligence, transparency and forthrightness in dealing with consumer protection authorities.
“This constitutes the most meaningful approach to crisis management” in addition to industry understanding the powers of regulators while recognising those “powers are existential, even if not exercised”.
The director general identified some policy priorities of the CPC under his tenure, noting the need to reinforce the existing complaint resolution mechanisms.
He disclosed that the Council will introduce a more efficient system with the right technology that will ensure companies are the primary point of resolution, and only when that fails are complaints made to the CPC.
“Except in serious or industry wide situations or abuses that require major and urgent immediate intervention, while encouraging the CEOs to ensure their companies adopt the comprehensive system and plug into it when it goes live.”
Irukera noted further that a major threat to both consumers and businesses is “counterfeiting and adulteration.”
He said the CPC would focus more on traceability and urged companies to cooperate in being more innovative and proactive in partnering with regulators to address this menace.
He assured them of government’s support through partnership with other regulators, security agencies and industry to address the menace as a national emergent and security situation,
Irukera also admonished industries to be more transparent about tracing and tracking their products.
He insisted that “we must be able to swiftly and unequivocally eliminate confusion or dual possibilities about the source of a defective product”, adding that, “when defectiveness regrettably emanates from a legitimate producer, forthrightness and honesty in taking responsibility are factors in the company’s reputation”.
Earlier in his remarks, the Group Managing Director of Flour Mills Nigeria Plc, Mr. Paul Gbededo, described AFBTE as a group of industries that have daily encounters with Nigerian consumers.
Gbededo said that members of the association are eager to collaborate with the CPC and happy to be regulated by the government agency, adding that “we are conscious that if consumers are not happy with us, our businesses will not go well”.
He also said that partnership between the association and the Council will be for the good of the country and the consumers in particular.
Mathew Dadiya, Abuja