The number of firms supposedly manufacturing roofing iron sheets have grown tremendously over the past five years. Many are briefcase ones that easily pass for genuine firms. Their quality is, perhaps, the worst.
They deceive unsuspecting buyers from the fresh coats of paints and inviting designs whose patents they do not own. They do not manufacture anything; they import nearly 100 percent ready. They would mostly cut and or re-paint the same. They engage in aggressive media advertising. Many of them use iron sheet design patterns found online.
The fraudulent mabati sellers take their customers’ money and delay or never deliver materials at all. Because the majority do not pay taxes and mostly employ casual staff, they often hoodwink consumers with what appears to be high quality materials for much less. The fascination by majority consumers with low prices against poor quality eventually hits unsuspecting ones with need for either replacements and or repairs, sooner than later.
To address this vicious exploitation, urgent interventions on mabati requires that;
First, the government, through the Ministry of Trade and Industrialization regulates the use of the word “mabati” to require them to meet a stated threshold in terms of quality. Importers of ready-made mabati disguised as local manufacturing firms must be stopped from registering a company by the same name and or posing as manufacturers.
Secondly, the government ought to consider amending the Scrap Metal Council Act to provide for the council a regulator and enforcement agency on the quality, registration of mabati business.
Thirdly, it is in the interest of consumers intending to construct houses to engage experts before buying mabati. Consideration ought to be the lowest convergence point between quality and pricing.
Fourth, for the loopholes in flooding the market with cheap poor quality sheets, the government should enhance taxation on ready-made mabati imports to protect the industry and consumers.
Fifth, the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) must do more on market surveillance and act tougher in resolving consumer complaints
The Competition Authority of Kenya (CAK) needs to work with other relevant agencies to stem undercutting of prices and require that con and brief companies do not access mainstream media adverts to hoodwink the unsuspecting public.
In line with Article 46 of the Constitution, the government must provide consumer and civic education around protecting genuine products and buying mabati through public service announcements.
Kenya cannot continue to grow the foreign economies on bad quality roofing materials. It’s time to halt the rot and rein in the cartels that visit havoc both on the economy and wellbeing of consumers.
It must be made expensive for people to engage in substandard, counterfeit and even illicit trade.
Mr Mutoro is the secretary-general, Consumers Federation of Kenya (Cofek) and chairman of the Stop Crime Kenya (StoCK) campaign. .