OVER a thousand businesses have been charged with selling expired and underweight goods among other various offences, the Industry and Commerce ministry has said.

According to the ministry, most of the semi-formal shops were fined for various offences that fall under the Consumer Protection Act.

The various offences include selling underweight products, expired goods, and improper packaging and labelling of goods which pose a health hazard to consumers.

In a statement, the ministry’s Consumer Affairs chief director, Douglas Runyowa, said the Consumer Protection Commission  has been undertaking raids and caught several businesses operating outside the law.

“The ministry through its routine inspections and robust market surveillance systems has noted a number of growing unethical practices in retail and wholesale shops throughout the country,” Runyowa said in a statement issued this week.

“Such practices include the selling of underweight products, expired goods, improperly packaging and unlabelled goods and in extreme cases unlicensed goods which pose a hazard to human beings as they have not been cleared nor tested by the health authorities.”

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Several buildings in the central businesses have been turned into small tuckshops selling groceries and clothes.

There are reports that the shops also sell smuggled products.

Runyowa said the non-compliance levels in semi- formal shops were at over 60%, “and this is untenable.”

“As we undertake our inspections, we have also penalised errant business players in numerous hotspots we have identified,” he said.

In May alone, the ministry inspected 5104 products for weights and measurements and issued 11 030 penalties on non-compliant products.

“Equally, the Consumer Protection Commission has to date undertaken a total of 1 903 compliance checks and 691 businesses were issued with compliance notices,” Runyowa said.

“A total of 1 309 businesses were prosecuted for various offences such as selling expired products.

“We have also recalled expired products from the market in line with the Consumer Protection Act.”

Other businesses were fined for rejecting the recently introduced currency, Zimbabwe Gold.

“In addition, 688 businesses were also issued with compliance notices for non-display of product prices in local currency and most were referred to the Financial Intelligence Unit,” he said.

According to Runyowa, the ministry was engaging businesses and manufacturers through their member  organisations from manufacturers to retailers and distributors and wholesalers to abide by the law.

Runyowa said government has also translated the Consumer Protection Act into more than six indigenous languages including Braille for people with disabilities to empower consumers on their consumer rights. .

“We want consumers to know and demand their rights as they engage in business,” he said.

“We are also undertaking awareness programmes in various provinces and in this quarter alone we have undertaken over 100 consumer awareness programmes in all the provinces countrywide.”