The Competition Authority of Kenya (CAK) has ducked the responsibility of protecting consumers against retailers that issue sweets and other alternatives for change. The consumer watchdog instead said the matter lies squarely within the ambit of the banking regulator - the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK).
Sweets are not legal tender, but some retailers have been faulted for “forcefully” issuing them and other products such as airtime and matchboxes to their customers in place of coins as change.
The law requires that all monetary obligations or transactions entered into or made in Kenya be settled in Kenyan currency unless otherwise provided for by law or agreed upon between the parties.
CAK was reacting to a case in which a consumer lodged a complaint against Naivas Supermarket, citing the consumer breach.
According to CAK, the complainant went to Naivas Supermarket in Nakuru (Super Centre branch) and did some shopping.
Lack of change
Upon making the payment, the cashier gave him some change which was less than expected.
On insisting that he needed his full change, the cashier gave him two sweets, which he declined and requested him to cancel the transaction due to lack of change on the part of the supermarket, but the cashier declined.
“The matter was found not to be within the mandate of the authority since the complaint involved a legal tender issue,” said the watchdog in a new public update.
“The complainant was asked to pursue the matter with CBK. The case was closed.”
In 2015, CBK cautioned supermarkets and retail chains against issuing alternative products in place of currency coins.
“Therefore commercial banks, supermarkets and other entities should desist from the practice of issuing alternative products instead of currency coins on the basis of bulkiness or perceived shortage. Accordingly, we urge commercial banks to ensure that coins are recirculated efficiently at all times to their respective customers,” said CBK in a press release on the matter in 2015.
“It is, therefore, a violation of the law to deny customers the possibility of obtaining their change in Kenya currency or deny them the opportunity to agree to settle the transaction in any other form,” added the regulator.
CBK said at the time the stores should not create the impression that there was a shortage of coins and noted that all commercial banks had been issued with sufficient quantities to allow for smooth settlement of transactions.
The Standard could not immediately reach CBK for a comment.