Pride Mahlangu, Business Reporter
CONSUMERS have strongly condemned businesses that include small-to-medium enterprises for demanding cash when transacting while charging higher premiums for mobile money payments.
In view of the persistent cash shortages in the economy, consumers have accused businesses of taking advantage of their plight through “extortionist” premiums, which penalise those without cash.
A snap survey conducted by Business Chronicle in Bulawayo, mainly on SMEs and the larger informal sector, has shown that those customers with cash are treated as “kings” and often incentivised with discounts in some cases.
On the other hand mobile money users are forced to incur additional costs of up to 30 percent or denied a service. Cash has also become a commodity and is being sold by illegal money changers and errant mobile money agents.
Consumer Rights Association spokesperson, Mr Effie Ncube, acknowledged the problem in an interview and called upon such businesses to revert to ethical business practices.
“We strongly condemn the businesses for taking advantage of the shortages of cash and then making those that are using other legitimate ways of buying goods and services suffer. This is actually punishing people who cannot access cash,” he said.
“That is unlawful, it is unethical and it is a bad way of doing business.”
Mr Ncube said business players should embrace ethics, operate within legal means of transacting and also invest in building relations of trust with their clients for mutual benefit.
“Whilst the country is working on finding a solution to the shortage of cash, we continue to insist on various mechanisms to adopt ethical ways of doing business and to educate consumers about their rights so that they claim their rights,” he said.
“So, as the Consumer Rights Association, we are doing both the advocacy and challenging the business community to be ethical as well as educating consumers to demand what is fair, affordable and acceptable.”
Contacted for comment, Bulawayo Chamber of SMEs chairperson, Mr Energy Majazi, also acknowledged the issue saying those who demand high premiums for mobile money will be seeking cushion themselves against costs linked with accessing foreign currency for imported products.
“When you trade through mobile money you are going to incur some charges and you will pass on these to your consumer. I know the transaction charge for online payments definitely is being passed on to the consumer,” said Mr Majazi. — @pridesinstinctz.