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CFTC warns MASM, local radio stations over misleading and false adverts 

Sydney Chikoti
Masm’ Chief Executive Officer Sydney Chikoti

BLANTYRE-(MaraviPost)-The Competition and Fair Trading Commission (CFTC) this week issued a strong warning to the Medical Aid Society of Malawi (MASM), and some local radio stations for allegedly broadcasting false and misleading adverts.

The warning comes amid concerns that the commission received from members of the public. They allege that consumers have been charged shortfalls on medical expense and consultation fees; this is despite MASM’s claims that there would be no shortfalls payable by its members.

In January this year, MASM adopted a new approach entitled “No Shortfall,” and indication that MASM clients were no longer required to pay shortfalls on all medical services including consultation, laboratory, scanning, and hospital admission. This is  in line with each scheme’s terms and conditions.
MASM members however, have been surprised that in several hospitals and clinics they are still being charged shortfalls on medical bills and consultation fees. They feel they are being duped.
This has prompted CFTC to condemn the practice and launched an investigation in responding to the concerns.
In a press statement released on Thursday and made available to The Maravi Post, the commission has asked Masm and radio station to stop broadcasting false and misleading statements to customers.
The CFTC observes that the conduct of providing false information or suppressing crucial information is grossly deceptive, unfair, and unreasonable.
“It has come to the attention of the Competition and Fair Trading Commission that the Medical Aid Society of Malawi (MASM) has not scrapped off the shortfalls on medical bills to members, contrary to claims that the Society has been making in radio advertisements over the past few months.
“By claiming that MASM has scrapped off shortfalls, while in practice demanding that members pay shortfalls on medical and consultation bills, the Society has left consumers deceived and swindled. This is a serious offense under the Competition and Fair Trading Act, Cap 48:09 of the Laws of Malawi.
“In particular, Section 43(1)(d) of the Competition and Fair Trading Act (CFTA) which states that ‘A person shall not, in relation to a consumer engage in conduct that is likely to mislead the public as to the nature, price, availability, characteristics, suitability for a given purpose, quantity or quality of any products or service’ and Section 43(1)(k) which states that ‘A person shall not, in relation to a consumer put out an advertisement which is misleading or deceptive’ ”, reads the statement in part signed by CFTC Executive Director, Charlotte Wezi Malonda.
“In view of this, the Commission hereby directs MASM to immediately cease and desist from further broadcasting or publishing this deceptive advert until otherwise advised in writing by the Commission,” Malonda said.
“The law further requires every advertiser to provide consumers with true, adequate, clear, and prompt information on the goods or services offered so that consumers can make proper and informed choices,” she said.
 But MASM Chief Executive Sydney Chikoti, said he did not have any knowledge on the matter and argued that the institution has not been served with an official communication from CFTC and MASM members.
He however, said that he had warned MASM members when launching the product, to be careful when accessing medical services that ensured that they are not duped or overcharged.
CFTC is an autonomous agency of the government mandated to regulate, monitor, control, and prevent acts or behavior which are likely to adversely affect competition and fair trading in Malawi.
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