1.1 Background to the Study
This study addresses the important issue of consumer protection in trans-border transactions under Nigeria’s product liability regime.
In spite of national political boundaries, the world is fast becoming a “global village”. With advancements in science and technology, particularly in Information and Communications Technology (ICT), information relating to goods produced in one part of the globe is now easily accessible to inhabitants of other parts of the world. Residents of countries separated by thousands of miles can engage in business transactions involving the supply of goods and provision of services without crossing their nations’ borders. People of one country can, through the Internet, order and pay for goods to be supplied from another country. Similarly, advancements in transport technology have also made travels and transportation of goods a lot faster, safer and less cumbersome than before, with the result that goods produced in one part of the globe can easily be supplied to inhabitants of distant lands. These days, the supplier of goods and the consumer need not be domiciled in one country and subject to the same legal jurisdiction. Globalisation promotes increasing interactions and interrelationships among countries of the world and their inhabitants. Such interactions are made possible by liberalisation of trade and commerce, and are sustained and supported by law, both at national and international levels.
Nigeria, like many other developing countries, depends heavily on imports to meet domestic demands for manufactured consumer goods. Thus, the balance of trade between the developed and developing countries for consumer goods usually tilts heavily in favour of the developed countries.
Owing to low level of technological development and lack of expertise, raw materials extracted in their natural state in developing countries are often exported to the developed countries, where they are processed and exported back to the developing countries in the form of finished products.For example, Nigeria exports primary agricultural produce such as cocoa, cotton and palm oil, and in return massively imports manufactured products such as beverages, clothes and cooking oil, produced from the primary agricultural products. At times, owing to stringent national regulations on standards, goods produced in the developed countries for their domestic markets are of higher standards than those produced for export, especially to developing countries with less stringent regulations and enforcement of standards. Invariably, this results in consumer dissatisfaction, loss of expectations and even injuries or damage to the consumer.
Within the national boundaries of a country, the nature and scope of protection, which the law provides for the consumer, range from the regulation of product quality, backed by administrative and penal sanctions, to provision of civil remedies by regulatory agencies and the courts. Claims for injury, loss or damage arising from a defective product are handled under the country’s national legislation and applicable rules of contract or tort. The applicable legislation and rules of law of any country, which impose liability on persons who manufacture or supply products to the consumer, collectively constitute the country’s product liability regime. Where the transaction leading up to the acquisition of a product, which causes injury or loss to a consumer, involves substantial external (foreign) elements, the presence of such externalities can pose serious challenges for national consumer protection legislation and regulations. Such challenges will hinge, essentially, on the applicability and enforcement of national legislation, regulations and rules of law in a trans-border setting.
DEVELOPING AN EFFECTIVE LEGAL FRAMEWORK FOR CORPORATE CRIMINAL LIABILITY ADMINISTRATION IN NIGERIA