The issue: Counterfeit goods
Our view: Instead Instead of lamenting about counterfeit products flooding the market and taking reactionary steps, we expect agencies mandated to ensure only quality goods enter our market to do their job by cracking the whip on non-compliant companies.
Last week, police carried out an operation against counterfeit products in Kampala. During the week-long crackdown done jointly with other standards agencies like Uganda National Bureau of Standards, assorted goods including oil lubricants, foods, mattresses, electronics and books were impounded and displayed at Interpol headquarters in Kololo.
This is a great initiative that should be sustained and expanded countrywide. As the Director of Interpol Fred Yiga rightly said, the public should be sensitised about the dangers of consuming counterfeit goods given the potential health hazards.
While we applaud this initiative by Interpol and other agencies, the crucial issue here is protecting Ugandans from counterfeit goods that are potentially dangerous. There are costs resulting from consumption of counterfeit products, so what is the sustainable solution to this persistent challenge of counterfeit products?
Currently, the approach seems to be haphazard: impound some counterfeit goods from some traders and display them to the media before destroying them and issuing warnings. This newspaper has carried numerous reports of UNBS either warning the public about consuming counterfeit goods; traders about selling such goods; or destroying the impounded goods.
Several reports of companies that do not comply with set standards have been highlighted. The national standards body, UNBS, has in the past attributed the problem to poor compliance levels. This raises the question: Why are companies not complying with set standards? What are the punitive measures for non-compliance to ensure this problem is dealt with decisively? Can’t the standards body, the consumer community and other stakeholders ensure no counterfeits enter the Ugandan market? And if they do, what actions are taken on the offending companies and traders beyond impounding and destroying the products?
Beyond monitoring the quality of goods that enter Uganda, the standards agencies must also take keen interest in locally manufactured counterfeit and sub-standards products which may be more difficult to monitor. In 2014, UNBS stated that 60 per cent of juice producers in Uganda are unhygienic. Out of 10 juice processors, only four observe the recommended hygiene practices.
Instead of lamenting about counterfeit products flooding the market and taking reactionary steps, we expect agencies mandated to ensure only quality goods enter our market to do their job by cracking the whip on non-compliant companies, including local manufacturers selling counterfeit goods.
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