SON partners online traders to combat substandard goods

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The Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) is spreading its dragnets in its bid to rid the country of substandard products, this time striking a partnership deal with online merchants whose business outfits could be avenues to market unwholesome goods.

The Agency says that the move is apt to checkmate activities of unscrupulous dealers who would want to take advantage of online platforms to make Nigeria a dumping ground for substandard goods.

Disclosing this to newsmen recently in Lagos was the Head of Department, Consumer Complaint of SON, Mrs Mosunmola Samuel.

According to her, e-commerce was sophisticated and dynamic which in turn made it difficult to track substandard goods since most of the dealers did not have warehouses or fixed addresses.

She said as a result of this, SON’s partnership with online traders would help to track down dealers who would want to abuse online platforms to sell their substandard wares, while urging consumers to always report to the Agency whenever they had issues with products bought both online and at the physical markets.

“Most of these online dealers import their products as personal effects as the growth of e-commerce in the Nigerian community is becoming huge and many steps have been taken for its promotion, but there are still lots to be done to make it operate in accordance with standards in the country.

“This is why we are working assiduously on partnering with online merchants to ensure that Nigeria is not a destination for substandard goods,” she said.

Samuel added, “We get the feedback through the head of our Public Relations and follow up with directives to online merchants to stop sales of such product immediately we get a complaint and they will pull it down.

“You know with online marketing, you don’t need to have a shop or selling bulk, all you need is just a handful of those products and you are already in business.”

She pointed out that e-commerce consumers could get their products from overseas as personal effects and you know in such areas, SON could not directly stop the importation until the products imported as personal products were brought online for sale to Nigerian consumers.

She noted that it was based on such issues that the organisation was canvassing to be at the ports for on-the-spot inspection and testing.

She stated that SON had notified sister agencies on the need to step up their ante in the nation’s bid to combat menace of substandard goods as the work of standards remained a collective fight by all and sundry.

She, however, urged online merchants to strictly adhere to quality products and services to achieve inclusive growth, saying, “The world all over is about standards and we are working tirelessly to educate Nigerians so as to be abreast with global trend.

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“On e-commerce, we have so many operating on different platforms and if these products are not registered with our product registration, it means that they are not complying with the requirements of our Act.
So we need to check and find out where these products are coming from and for every product coming into the country, there is always a major channel,” she said.

The SON official said the organisation was appreciative of feedbacks from consumers as “We are happy when consumers give us feedbacks; the feedbacks show the level of confidence reposed in it and the Federal Government.

“We are proud for the trust in us to start our consumer protection mandate as it also helps us develop and introduce new standards,” she maintained.

She added that consumer complaints were the first steps of redress taken in the process of Consumer Protection, stressing that such feedback had more power than ever.

“Hence, this is the most important aspect of every business and SON recognising this, which is why our customer feedback unit is capable of addressing consumer complaints,” she added.

She pointed out that SON handled consumer complaints through its customer feedback desks which were in all the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

Samuel reaffirmed the agency’s commitment to effective management by handling complaints in an accountable, transparent, timely and fair manner. This, according to her, was in recognition that effective complaints management remained integral part to good client service as it valued all complaints and encouraged a people-focused and proactive approach to complaints management.

Meanwhile, the Agency has announced plans to equip journalists with the requisite skills on International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO).

This, SON said, has become imperative as it would help the media industry understand the benefits of ISO to the national economy in developing standards to ensure the quality, safety and efficiency of products, services and systems.

The Director General, Mallam Farouk Salim, stated this at a capacity-building workshop for journalists held in Lagos recently.

He urged the media to practise investigative journalism, taking into cognizance creativity and authenticity to write stories that would change the narratives of the country.

He noted that the essence of the workshop was to appreciate the media and their contributions to the progress of the agency and the country in general.
“We are also using this medium to interact and discuss issues that bother both the media and the standards body”, he said.

On the level of seizures made so far, the SON boss disclosed that its level of seizures had increased tremendously, maintaining that responses from stakeholders and market associations indicated that the Agency was winning the war against substandard goods.

“The stakeholders’ response is very good and recently we have studies where steel products quality has also increased very much as we get this information from contractors and dealers. We are getting very good responses from stakeholders and the markets about the quality of steel products and cables,” he said.
Salim also reaffirmed SON’s commitment to strengthening its partnership with the media, urging journalists to also act as vanguards in its fight against fake and substandard goods.

He revealed that SON had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Katsina State government to develop the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the state, stressing that discussions were also ongoing to take the gospel of standardisation to Jigawa, Kano, Bauchi and Sokoto states to make SMEs competitive.

Mallam Farouk also noted that the SON had done enough sensitisation and had carried out enforcements to nip sub-standard goods in the bud.

He said: “Efforts are being made to improve standard of products and eliminate substandard goods in the country. We have done enough enforcement, discussed about how to stop all these things that are entering our country. We are working tirelessly both within, outside and underground, to improve activities of the organisation so that it can serve the country better.

Also speaking, the Director, Standards Development, Mrs. Chinyere Egwuonwu, said the Nigeria National Standardisation Strategy (NNSS) introduced last year with a three-year implementation plan had so far identified 658 standardisation projects to be developed before the end of 2023.

She said the NNSS aimed to support the Federal Government’s Economic Recovery Growth Plan and Nigeria Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP).
She also urged Nigerian manufacturers to ensure that they produced good products and follow it up with good packaging, as SON would not allow substandard goods to either leave the country or exist here.

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