Author: O. M. Atoyebi S.A.N Contributor: Patrick Emmanuel
On the 28th of July, 2021, Patrick Chukwuma, a legal practitioner, filed a Suit that has not been filed before. He instituted an action against Peace Mass Transit Limited, challenging the latter’s policy of “no refund of money after payment”. The brief facts of the case that led to the Suit occurred on the 10th of February, 2021, when Patrick Chukwuma bought a ticket from the Obollor-Afor branch of Peace Mass Transit Limited to convey him to Enugu.
After a two-hour delay occasioned by the absence of passengers, the Plaintiff returned to the ticketing office and asked for a refund of the N500.00 he paid as transport fare. However, staff of the Defendant refused to refund the money, insisting that their company policy was that money paid for transport fare cannot be returned to the passenger, citing the statement written on their ticket to that effect as conclusive proof of their position.
This disquisition seeks to explain the legality or otherwise of the above policy vis-à-vis the provisions of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act (FCCPA), employing the above case as a case study.
THE ROLE OF THE FCCPC
The Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, empowered by the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act, is the body charged with regulating commercial activities in Nigeria, with the mandate to promote fair, efficient and competitive markets in the Nigerian economy to facilitate access to safe products by all citizens and secure the protection of rights for all consumers.
Section 1 of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act provides for the objectives thus:
The objectives of this Act are to-
While section 2 provides for the scope of the application of the Act thus:
A meticulous reading of the above provisions indicates that the provisions of the FCCPA apply to ALL commercial activities in Nigeria, and it is the primary law on questions of consumer transactions in the country. The supremacy of the FCCPA in regulating commercial transactions and protecting consumer rights is provided for in section 104 of the FCCPA thus;
“Notwithstanding the provisions of any other law but subject to the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, in all matters relating to competition and consumer protection, the provisions of this Act shall override the provisions of any other law.”
What this means is that policies by service providers or terms and conditions included in commercial transactions, must conform with the provisions of the FCCPA.
Back to the case instituted by Patrick Chukwuma against Peace Mass Transit Limited, the sole question before the Court was whether the Defendant’s (Peace Mass Transit Limited) policy of “no refund of money after payment” violates the provision of section 120 of the FCCPA, especially when the contractual obligation to convey the Plaintiff to his preferred destination was terminated. A thorough analysis of the provisions of the FCCPA shows that apart from section 120, section 129 also deals with the subject matter of this article. The provisions of the above-mentioned sections are reproduced verbatim below.
Section 120 of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act provides that:
A community reading of the above-quoted provisions reveals that the policy of ‘no refund of money after payment’ by service providers offends the provisions of section 120 of the FCCPA. Pursuant to section 120, what a service provider is entitled to in the situation where a consumer cancels a booking or reservation is a reasonable charge, subject to some conditions, and not the entire sum paid by the consumer. The implication of the foregoing is that the inclusion of this policy in the terms and conditions of service providers contravenes section 129 of the FCCPA.
This was the decision of the Court in our case study where the Court held that the policy of ‘no refund of money after payment’ by the Defendant is illegal, null and void in light of the provisions of sections 120, 104, 129(1)(a) and (b)(iii) of the FCCPA. The Court further ordered the Defendant to pay the sum of N500,000.00 as damages to the Plaintiff.
The decision reached in the above case is that of a High Court and is still subject to appeal to two other superior Courts. However, the judgement in this case, is sound, cogent and convincing, and very likely to be affirmed by the Court of appeal and Supreme Court, should the Defendant exercise its right of appeal.
This case puts service providers in Nigeria on notice, that more citizens are now alive to their rights as consumers, and will not hesitate to enforce same should the need arise. It should also serve as a piece of advice to service providers to acquaint themselves with the provisions of the FCCPA, and engage the services of a lawyer before drafting company policy, or including terms and conditions in commercial transactions.
 The explanatory memorandum of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act, 2018