CPC Moves Against NBC, Coca-Cola Over Circulation of Harmful Sprite Drinks
…vows to protect Nigerian consumers against exploitation
Determined to fully protect Nigerian consumers from unwholesome practices of multi-national and local companies, the Consumer Protection Council has directed the Coca-Cola Nigeria Limited and the Nigerian Bottling Company 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 came 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 press briefing on the ‘Investigation into Violation of Product Quality Standards by the Nigerian Bottling Company and Coca-Cola Nigeria Limited’, in Lagos on Tuesday.
The CPC, a parastatal under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, is 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, compensate and provide relief to injured consumers, encourage the adoption of appropriate measures to ensure that products are 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, pursuant to a consumer complaint received by the CPC regarding two half-empty cans of Sprite, products manufactured by NBC under the licence and authority of Coca Cola, the Council in accordance with its Act, investigated the complaint and found, 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 Consumer Protection Council regarding two half empty cans of Sprite, products manufactured by the Nigerian Bottling Company Plc under the licence and authority of Coca Cola Nigeria Limited, the Council in accordance with the Consumer Protection Council Act commenced an investigation into the complaint on the 6th day of September 2013 and gave notice thereof to the Nigerian Bottling Company Plc and Coca Cola Nigeria Limited.
“The Council set up a Panel which invited both companies to provide any responses or positions they wish to take regarding the complaint, and provided them repeated opportunities to make representations, provide information and address sundry issues arising out of the complaint and their operations. While the Nigerian Bottling Company 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.”
She added, “The Council had, prior to this complaint, been inundated with similar situations and other complaints, such as; rusty bottle tops, rusty cans and foreign particles in beverage products of the Nigerian Bottling Company 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 Consumer Protection Council 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 are products of the Nigerian Bottling Company under license of Coca-Coca Nigeria Limited; that the cans of sprite were defective and had health and safety implications for consumers; that the Nigerian Bottling Company does not have a detailed written shelf life policy for dealing with expired products; and that the Nigerian Bottling Company’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, are that the NBC’s supply chain management does 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 DG stated, “In view of all these, the Council made far reaching recommendations for system change in the Nigerian Bottling Company and Coca-Cola Nigeria Limited. To this effect, it has issued an Order, which gives clear directions for standard compliance in all areas that the companies have been found wanting.
“The Order requires the Nigerian Bottling Company and Coca-Cola Nigeria Limited to: subject their manufacturing process to the Council’s inspection for a period of 12 months to ensure compliance with safety standards and regulations; formulate and make available to the Council a Shelf Life Policy within 90 days to facilitate the removal of expired products from the market.”
The CPC boss, however, said that Coca Cola and the NBC had been directed to pay compensation to the consumer whose complaint triggered the investigation.
“The CPC has ordered Coca Cola Nigeria Limited and the Nigerian Bottling Company to: “review within 90 days their Grievance Resolution Policy to address compensation for injuries, or compensation in instances where replacement will be inadequate; review their supply chain management policy within 90 days to include retailers in order to minimise the distribution of defective, non-conforming or expired products; review within 90 days their traceability policy to make it easier for the companies to track their products without necessarily requesting purchase information from the consumer; compensate the consumer whose complaint necessitated the investigation; and pay civil penalties to act as deterrent,” she noted
The DG added that the Order of Council had been served on NBC and Coca-Cola Nigeria, pointing out that “it is worth noting that disobedience to the Order of the Council is punishable, upon conviction, with three years jail term or a fine.”
Coca-Cola Company is the world’s largest soft drink company with revenue of about $12.03 billion in 2013. The brand is very popular in Nigeria. In 2013, it rolled out over 3 billion bottles of its product in the country. As the largest black nation in the world, Nigeria accounts for a large portion of Coca-Cola Company’s market share.
She re-affirmed the commitment of CPC towards protecting the interest of Nigerian consumers, adding that the agency would continue to ensure that all manufacturers and service providers adhered to international best practices.
“Our concern is for the health of Nigerian consumers who may suffer injuries from the consumption of products that do not meet the required safety standard or health regulations,” Atoki said.
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