Business

‘Buying uniforms from schools should be optional’

CCPC CONSUMER ADVICE CORNER
Dear CCPC,
I have a complaint against Mpunde Secondary School. They make it compulsory for pupils to buy physical education (PE) uniforms at their school, which they charge K200. If we refuse to buy from the same school, they ask that you take your child to a different school.
However, the buying of school uniforms at the school has been made optional. Why shouldn’t the school also allow us to choose where we buy PE uniforms? I feel this is wrong. Please intervene on our behalf.
Concerned parent,
Kabwe.
Hello concerned parent,
Thank you for writing to us. It will please you to hear that we have taken up this issue and we are engaging school authorities to immediately stop this practice.
It is illegal for schools to force parents and guardians to buy school uniforms or any other accessories at the school as a requirement for entry of new pupils or securing a place for pupils in that school. We have been consistent on this issue and are warning such schools who have continued to defy this directive to immediately refrain from engaging in this, as they risk being penalised.
Forcing parents and guardians to buy uniforms from the school only has a negative effect on competition as it restricts other traders not to participate and it makes pupils to unnecessarily miss out on their education. Therefore, pupils must be allowed to buy uniforms wherever they so choose. The school management’s responsibility is to clearly guide the parents on the colour (shade), material and other specifications of the uniform.
The actual sale of uniforms at schools does not contravene the Competition and Consumer Protection Act (CCPA), but what is illegal is forcing parents and guardians to buy only from the school.
In the same vein, this conduct amounts to tying of a different product or service to another, for instance, tying school places with school uniforms. These are two different products, hence they should be treated as such and should not be sold as one product or service. This practice is unfair as it limits consumer choices.
It makes sad reading to hear about this trend in schools when, in fact, school authorities as custodians of the law are expected to lead by example but are instead taking advantage of consumers’ desperate situations to engage in tied selling.
We are urging schools to desist from this conduct as the commission is actively investigating such cases in institutions of learning and whichever institution will be found liable may be fined.
For any other queries and concerns, feel free to report any incidences to us on the details below. Please e-mail us on: zcomp@ccpc.org.zm,
h.chaaba@ccpc.org.zm.
Visit our Facebook page:
www.facebook.com/Competition-and-Consumer-Protection-Commission-Zambia or Follow us on Twitter @CompComZambia. We are at 4th floor Main Post Office Building, PO Box 34919, Lusaka. Telephone: 222775/222787,
toll-free line: 5678 across all mobile phone networks.



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