By Landing Ceesay
The Gambia Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (GCCPC) Real Estate Industry Study has revealed that the lack of regulations for the sector causes ‘perennial problems’ for their consumers.
It also found out that some Alkalou engage in falsification of documents, ‘illegal’ property sale that also causes many problems for consumers.
“Some of the practices found to be occurring in the sector are a cause for alarm. The lack of regulations are the main causes of the perennial problems faced by consumers in the real estate industry; as consumers are left at the mercy of market players and other stakeholders involved in the transaction process. Some of the real estate companies and Alkalos are found to be engaged in fraudulent and deceptive practices, which have yielded little or no consequences [for the real estate companies and Alkalos]. Issues like the falsification of documents and illegal selling of properties has caused lots of problems for consumers.
“The lack of regulations means there are no regulatory requirements to start-up. This makes it possible for literally anyone to penetrate the market without much obligations or responsibilities, and this in the long run, has led to negligent and fraudulent behaviour by some of the players as they penetrate the market to make quick profits at all costs. This has led to low consumer confidence and a bad image for the real estate companies, which is unfair to some of them that have built an impressive track record and are striving based on high quality of the products and services, professionalism and ethical behaviour,” the GCCPC 2020 Real Estate study stated.
The survey also stated that reducing the bureaucracy at the level of the Department of Physical Planning should also be prioritized by the relevant ministry, as documentation and the demarcation functions by Department of Physical Planning are perceived too long.
The study further said stakeholders have raised concerns that it takes up to two years to lease their property; thereby making it urgent for the Department to update its 1989 housing policy, which does not cater for real estate companies.
“Perhaps this can help avoid some of the shortcomings of the Department [Department of Physical Planning] . The Commission [GCCPC] welcomes the fact that the Ministry of Lands and Local Government has received a draft bill from the Ministry of Justice for regulation of the sector, however, it needs to ensure that adequate consultations are done with all stakeholders involved in the transaction process, as this is the best way to ensure that most of the issues are adequately tackled by the draft bill. The sector is among the fastest growing sectors in the country which could have contributed significantly to the GDP in terms of licensing and regulatory fees etc., but this is not realized due to the lack of regulation,” it said.
GCCPC opined that unless the right policies and regulations are introduced in the real estate sector and effectively enforced, the players involved in the transactions would not be held accountable for their ‘fraudulent and misleading’ market practices.
The commission expressed the need for a holistic review of the transaction processes to ensure that it is quicker, transparent and more efficient; given that land is becoming more expensive, and most consumers spend their life savings to acquire property and end up losing them without any form of redress or compensation.
“Despite the fact there are inadequate or outdated laws and regulations to regulate the industry, there are still existing laws in different sectors that can be used to mitigate some of the risks posed to consumers by Real Estate Companies. Thus, there is an urgent need for close cooperation and coordination among the relevant Government institutions [Ministry of Lands & Local Government, Lands Commission, Gambia Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, Financial Intelligence Unit, Central Bank of the Gambia, Ministry of Justice etc.] to implement these laws effectively until an adequate law is enacted by the National Assembly,” the survey recommended.
The Gambia Competition and Consumer Protection Commission [GCCPC] is a statutory authority under the purview of the Ministry of Trade and Industry composed of five Commissioners appointed by the President, and headed by a Chairperson. GCCPC is the body primarily responsible for the promotion of competition and the protection of consumers mandated by the Competition Act 2007, Consumer Protection Act 2014, and Essential Commodities Act 2015.