The Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission has said Point of Sale operators caught for price fixing risk three months jail term.
This is as it issued a cease-and-desist order to PoS operators from conduct that constitutes an infringement of the law.
PoS operators under the umbrella of the Association of Mobile Money and Bank Agents Nigeria fixed new prices for PoS transactions on July 17.
On July 19, 2023, The PUNCH exclusively reported that the FCCPC would issue an order to stop PoS agents from fixing withdrawal prices.
According to the commission, PoS operators that are found in violation of the order will pay N10m for corporate entities; and N1m and or a prison sentence of up to three months for individuals.
The FCCPC, in a statement signed by its Executive Vice Chairman/Chief Executive Officer, Babatunde Irukera, on Monday, said, “The Commission advises PoS operators that violation of an order of the Commission attracts additional consequences apart from the underlying illegal conduct that is the subject of the order such as up to N10,000,000 for corporate entities; and N1,000,000 and or a prison sentence of up to three months for individuals.”
The commission noted that it was not seeking to limit the ability of PoS service providers to determine and set prices for services in a manner of their choosing subject to Section 127 of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act 2018, which prohibits manifestly unjust or exploitative prices.
According to the commission, it respects and encourages a pricing methodology that is the product of market forces in a free, competitive, and undistorted market.
It, however, noted it was against price fixing that did not provide the consumer with choices.
The commission said, “While the commission continues to provide consideration to, and for small businesses, enforcing the law must remain non-negotiable.
“Accordingly, the commission in escalating this in accordance with the FCCPA and ancillary instruments, has entered an Order & Notice (ONC) of the Commission to AMMBAN, persons identified as executives, members, and non-member PoS operators to Cease and Desist from conduct that constitute an infringement of the law.”
It said the ONC had been served on AMMBAN, adding that not all members could be personally served or would become aware through service on AMMBAN.
It further stated, “In addition, some persons such as non-AMMBAN members may become subject to the ONC. Accordingly, the commission has, and is by this again publicly disseminating the ONC. Members are, however, invited to consider the sufficiency of service of the ONC under Section 158(4) of the FCCPA, which deems such service on their association or executives as adequate and acceptable.”
According to the commission, it has tried the cautious and collaborative approach but has now adopted the ONC to convey its will to enforce the law.
It asserted that it would not hesitate to prosecute violators and affiliates who may otherwise be statutorily liable for the conduct of a violating company or business.
It added, “In addition to stipulated statutory consequences, although the commission prefers not to disrupt the business and operations of small enterprises, it will, (if it becomes necessary) prohibit merchant services and privileges to PoS operators or AMMBAN members who persist in conduct that is inconsistent with law and economic efficiency.”
Commenting on this development, the National President of the Association of Mobile Money and Bank Agents in Nigeria, Victor Olojo, told The PUNCH that the association had not fixed any price.
According to him, the association only released a price guide to prevent agents from taking advantage of Nigerians.
He noted that AMMBAN had received its letter from the FCCPC and had responded accordingly.
He said, “We have over 1.6 million PoS agents, whose cause remains to serve Nigerians. We are not in a price war. We are a self-regulatory body; we only regulate ourselves, and we don’t fix prices.
“What was released by the state chapter was a price guide and not any fixing of prices. In fact, the operators we have in Nigeria are in a free market. What was released was a price cap. We advised our agents not to charge beyond that. AMMBAN does not have any regulatory power. We are just an association.”
Olojo noted that AMMBAN has written to the FCCPC and explained its position.
He said, “We are not also taking out the fact that prices cannot remain the same. Fuel price is not the same; transportation price is not the same. There is nothing that is the same. So, the FCCPC cannot force an enterprise to sell at a loss. I think their interest is whether we are fixing prices, and AMMBAN is not fixing prices and we are advising our members to remain competitive without charging beyond a certain point.”
He further stated that the association was committed and open to working with the Federal Government and its institutions.