A new crop of ‘entrepreneurs’ has invaded Bulawayo’s marketplaces where they sell fake branded products to unsuspecting consumers in broad daylight.
In essence, the traders pretend to sell popular brands at discounted prices, but are really offering low-quality counterfeit products at a profit. They have become notorious for putting fake stickers on products that they will be selling.
Notable products include baked beans, dishwashing liquids and deodorants.
It seems some of the products are smuggled into the country and find their way to markets that sell products at a cheaper price compared to supermarkets, thereby attracting a lot of shoppers.
For customers who know a product’s attributes, the problem starts when they are home when it is time for consumption.
A Chronicle news crew visited the marketplace and spoke to some people who throng the markets and they raised the red flag on the fake branded products.
Mrs Sihle Mlotshwa said she recently bought a tin of baked bins branded “Koo” when it was actually not a genuine product.
“I bought a tin of baked beans branded ‘Koo’, but to my shock when I opened it, the contents were completely different. I usually buy this product because I know the original taste of these beans,” she said.
“The most painful part is that they would have sold a substandard product at a high cost.”
Another consumer, who declined to be named, said selling fake brands is a risky enterprise, which also compromises health particularly for people with allergies.
“You can imagine buying something that you are allergic to without knowing. These traders are putting people’s lives at risk simply because they want to make quick money,” he said.
Mr Moffat Ndlovu who also fell prey to the scam, said he bought his “favourite” deodorant, which had a fake label.
“When l started using it, I developed some rash on my armpits and I had to visit a doctor. I have also noticed that some of the body lotions that these people sell would be half full,” he said.
The news crew also caught up with Ms Elizabeth Ndebele who was equally dismayed after falling into the same predicament.
“I bought a dish washing liquid which had a ‘Sunlight’ sticker, but what surprised me was that upon using it, it was not as thick as it was supposed to be. I went back to the seller and she claimed that she had also bought the products from South Africa,” she said.
“If customers receive a fake product of poor quality and do not realise it is a copy; it will undermine the brand’s reputation. If they realise it is a fake it will create uncertainty in the market and people will be reluctant to buy the product.”
A trader at the marketplace, Ms Lindiwe Nyoni admitted that there are some vendors who dupe customers.
“It is unfortunate that we have some people among ourselves who resort to unethical ways of doing business, which we do not condone as traders. However, in some cases, we would have bought these products from our suppliers who would have tampered with the stickers,” she said.
Bulawayo Vendors and Traders Association (BVTA) executive director Mr Michael Ndiweni said: “I doubt traders are involved in these malpractices because getting the stickers for those brands means one needs to have machines to print them out in large quantities of which most vendors don’t have that capacity.”
Consumer Council of Zimbabwe regional manager for Matabeleland region, Mr Comfort Muchekeza said selling fake products is tantamount to fraud and leads to prosecution of offenders.
“We are all guided by the laws of the country. It is clearly stated that anyone who is found guilty of violating a section of Consumer Protection Act is liable to a fine or imprisonment not less than three months,” he said.
“Those involved in selling such products should be reported to the police. This is tantamount to fraud and when you misinform consumers with regards to the nature and price of the goods.”
Mr Ndiweni, however, said as an organisation they will conduct their own investigations. Bulawayo police spokesperson Inspector Abednico Ncube said no report has been made so far regarding the matter. –Chronicle