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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

CPC Reads the Riot Act to Coca-cola on Substandard products

Coca-Cola Nigeria Limited

• Firm: We complied with council’s directive

Steve Omanufeme and     Crusoe Osagie
In its efforts to protect Nigerian consumers from unwholesome practices of manufacturing concerns, both multi-national and local, the Consumer Protection Council (CPC) has directed Coca-Cola Nigeria Limited and its manufacturing unit, the Nigerian Bottling Company (NBC), to subject their manufacturing processes to the council’s inspection for a period of 12 months to ensure compliance with laid down safety standards and regulations.
The directive is coming on the heels of a recent investigation by the CPC, which revealed that cans of Sprite manufactured by NBC, under the licence of Coca-Coca Nigeria Limited, were unwholesome for human consumption.
The Director-General, CPC, Mrs. Dupe Atoki, confirmed the development during a media briefing on the ‘Investigation into Violation of Product Quality Standards by the NBC and Coca-Cola Nigeria Limited’, in Lagos Tuesday.
As at press time, the NBC said it was putting together its response.
The CPC, a parastatal under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investments is duly empowered by the Consumer Protection Council Act Cap 25, LFN 2004, to, among others, provide speedy redress to consumers’ complaints, remove hazardous products from the market, cause an offending company to protect, and compensate and provide relief to injured consumers.
The Act also empowers the CPC to encourage the adoption of appropriate measures by companies to ensure that products were safe for intended use, 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.
Atoki said following a consumer complaint received regarding two half-empty cans of Sprite manufactured by NBC under the licence and authority of Coca Cola, the CPC in accordance with its Act, investigated the complaint and found out among other things, that the cans of Sprite were defective and had health and safety implications for consumers.
Atoki said: “Pursuant to a consumer complaint received by the CPC regarding two half empty cans of Sprite, products manufactured by the NBC Plc under the licence and authority of Coca Cola Nigeria Limited, the council in accordance with the CPC Act commenced an investigation into the complaint on the 6th day of September 2013 and gave notice thereof to the NBC Plc and Coca Cola Nigeria Limited.”
She said the council subsequently set up a panel, which invited both companies to provide responses or positions regarding the complaint, adding that the companies were given repeated opportunities to make representations, provide information and address sundry issues arising out of the complaint and their operations.
According to her, while the NBC cooperated with the council in the investigation, Coca-Cola Nigeria Limited, in contravention of applicable law, “elected to adopt a rather hostile and flagrant approach to the council and its proceedings by failing, refusing, neglecting to attend, make depositions or produce documents in its possession.”
Atoki pointed out that the CPC had, prior to the complaint in question, been inundated with similar complaints, such as “rusty bottle tops, rusty cans and foreign particles in beverage products of the NBC under licence of Coca-Cola Nigeria Limited.”
The panel, after five hearings, held between September 2013 and February 2014, substantiated the allegation of product defect and violation of the CPC Act.
“Though the investigation was premised on two half-filled cans of Sprite, it led to a plethora of findings, among which are: that the cans of Sprite were products of the NBC under license of Coca-Coca Nigeria Limited; that the cans of sprite were defective and had health and safety implications for consumers; that the NBC does not have a detailed written shelf life policy for dealing with expired products; and that the NBC’s grievance resolution policy does not cover instances where the consumer suffers physical injury from consumption, or compensation in instances where replacement will be inadequate.”
Other findings, according to the CPC, were that the NBC’s supply chain management did  not extend to retailers, who the bulk of Nigerian consumers buy their products from; that the NBC’s traceability policy fails to effectively address the real purpose as the company often relies on information as to the place of purchase of the product.
The CPC boss, however, said Coca Cola and the NBC had been directed to pay compensation to the consumer, whose complaint triggered the investigation.
In their response, the NBC and Coca-Cola Nigeria Limited confirmed that the CPC carried out a product complaint investigation involving both companies in respect of two short-filled cans of Sprite.
In a statement, both companies said they cooperated with the regulatory agency during the investigation, noting with regret that the CPC’s conclusions and recommendations did not appear to have acknowledged the information they supplied.
“As responsible organisations, 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,” the statement added.

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