The Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) has appealed for urgent Government intervention in protecting consumers against the tide of foreign currency pricing of goods and services at a time when a majority of people’s salaries are not pegged in hard currency.
The consumer’s plight has been compounded by the recent spate of unjustified price increases and persistent three-tier pricing, which have literally eroded consumer purchasing power.
Giant beverages manufacturer, Delta Corporation Limited, this week joined the bandwagon of companies that include Simbisa Brands, among others, whose products are now pegged in foreign currency. While some business have stated that they will continue to accept bond notes and RTGS transactions, their pricing deviates from the official 1:1 exchange rate, reflecting a distorted parallel market impact on the economy.
Reacting to the issue, CCZ regional manager, Mr Comfort Muchekeza, said companies charging in US dollars only were not being fair on consumers and stand accused of flouting the country’s laws by refusing legal tender which is part of the basket of currencies in use. He said most consumers do not have the required foreign currency and cannot be punished for that.
“It is sad that we have companies charging in US dollar yet the economy cannot sustain it. The major challenge is that consumers have no source of income in US dollars,” he said.
“Government should intervene because not only will consumers be affected but also the companies in a way are pushing themselves out of business as a small population can get easy access to diaspora remittance.”
Government has described as illegal and unjustified, the decision by Delta to demand United States dollar transactions only, effective today. Industry and Commerce Minister, Mangaliso Ndlovu has chided businesses that demand foreign currency and said swift engagement was underway as Government seeks to restore normalcy.
“We have noted with concern a proliferation in the number of companies and businesses engaging in preferential currency practices.
“This is not only against the spirit of fairness, but it is also an illegal practice. Government is very clear that this practice is unacceptable and has to stop forthwith and if not, the law will take its course,” he told our Harare Bureau on Wednesday.
Minister Ndlovu said Government had tried to ensure businesses operate in a free atmosphere, but companies were now acting in bad faith.
“The Government has supported business to operate liberally within the economy without interference but giving an intervening hand whenever it has been called upon to assist. In return, Government has expectations that business will operate in good faith and responsibly,” the minister said.
“At the centre of the relationship between Government and business is the spirit of engagement and a two-way communication between all parties.
“That spirit is defeated when one of the parties decides to unilaterally pronounce decisions against both the text and spirit of agreed principles,” he said.