Every day in Nigeria, tens of thousands (maybe even hundreds of thousands) of transactions are concluded online. The aim of this article is to explain to Nigerians, some of the rights they have when conducting and completing transactions online in Nigeria.
Before we commence, we should let you know that the laws governing online transactions in Nigeria are almost non-existent and wholly inadequate. Thankfully, there are new laws that are on the verge of being passed at the National Assembly, and this should change in the near future! We are where we are though, and so below are some of the rights Nigerians have under our current laws.
One of the reasons many Nigerians give for not wanting to transact online is the security of their data. We are afraid that when we put our personal and card information into websites, that we are in effect opening ourselves up to potential data theft and fraud on our bank accounts by people accessing our card details.
In Nigeria, under the current legislation in place, security of card transactions are not regulated by any specific Act of the National Assembly, however, the Central bank of Nigeria is impliedly empowered by the Central Bank of Nigeria Act 2007 to make regulations to facilitate these sorts of transactions. In pursuance of this, and in exercise of its powers under Section 28 (1) (b) to issue guidelines for the maintenance of adequate and reasonable financial services for the public and to ensure high standards of conduct and management throughout the banking system, the CBN implemented the Guidelines on Transactions Switching Services.
We won’t bore you with the details of the provisions of the guidelines, you can read it here. But the gist in Rules 1.5 and 3.5 is that the consumer is liable for any fraud committed if he is in possession of the card and has knowledge of the PIN code, however, once the consumer reports any theft or loss of card, he/she is automatically absolved of any liability for any future unauthorized transaction on that card, furthermore, if a fraudulent or unauthorized transaction can be traced to the negligence or breach of contract of the issuer or merchant, then the consumer would not be liable.
So, if you get a notification that your a transaction has been carried out on your card, report to your bank immediately, if any further transactions happen on the card, it is not your fault and becomes a responsibility of the bank. Obviously, this is not the best solution, in EU countries, there are specific protections for fraudulent transactions on cards whereby the bank indemnifies users if there is fraudulent activity on the card. Hopefully, our laws take a cue from this.
Late delivery of goods
There are 2 scenarios here –
- Scenario A, when the website terms and conditions states how long it will take for the goods to be delivered. In this case, if the delivery period is stated as 5 days, and if it takes longer than 5 days, the company is technically in breach of the terms of the contract, and you are well within your rights to refuse to take delivery and request a refund.
- Scenario B, where the website terms and conditions do not state a timeframe for the delivery of the goods. This might lead to some uncertainty, but to clear this uncertainty, we can look to the provisions of the Sale of Goods Act. Section 29(2) of the SOGA it provides;
Where under the contract of sale the seller is bound to send the goods to the buyer, but no time for sending them is fixed, the seller is bound to send them within a reasonable time
Therefore, if you buy goods online, and the goods are not delivered on time, you have the right to reject the goods if goods are not delivered in a reasonable time. You might ask then, what is a reasonable time? The answer to this is an objective one, and it would depend on the nature of the goods and what reasonable timescales are with similar companies.
Every day on social media you see and hear complaints of people buying things which look fantastic online, but once they receive them, the products look absolutely nothing like what they did online, or worse the products are faulty. What does on do in those circumstances? Can you return it? If yes, how soon after you receive the goods can you return it? To find out the legal position, we need to revisit the provisions of the Sale of Goods Act again. The Act provides in Section 34;
‘Where goods are delivered to the buyer, which he has not previously examined, he is not deemed to have accepted them unless and until he has had a reasonable opportunity of examining them for the purpose of ascertaining whether they are in conformity with the contract.’
Therefore, applying these rules to an e-commerce context, the buyer retains the right to return and reject the goods if upon examination he discovers that the goods are not in conformity with the contract,
Unfair and unreasonable contract terms
In Nigeria, the consumer protection laws are not as robust as we would hope and expect them to be. No statutory Law currently exists which would serve to protect the consumer from the harsh burden which extremely lopsided standard form contracts may place on them. As most online merchants have standard term contracts which are created to favour them, the consumer is left with a sort of fait accompli, to either accept any possible onerous terms which may be placed on him by the seller, who is clearly in a stronger bargaining position, or to back out of the transaction.
At LawPàdí, we took it upon ourselves to review some of the terms of a few of the e-commerce companies in Nigeria, and unfortunately we noticed that a number of them have terms which are pretty ruthless, and in some cases down right shocking. Generally, the legal principle is ‘pacta sunt servanda’, which is that contracts should be enforced. If someone voluntarily decides to enter a contract, then he/she expect to be bound by it. However, in law there is something called ‘unconscionable contract’, which in a nutshell is a contract that is so one-sided that it is unfair to one party and therefore unenforceable under law. In a lawsuit, if the court finds a contract to be unconscionable, they will typically declare the contract to be void.
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We hope you have found this information helpful. Please note that this information is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. No lawyer-client relationship is formed nor should any such relationship be implied. This answer is not intended to substitute for the advice of a qualified lawyer. If you require legal advice, please consult with a qualified lawyer.