The Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) has taken action against Erisco Foods Limited following the arrest of a dissatisfied consumer who posted a negative review of one of the company’s products on Facebook.
The incident began when Chioma Egodi Jnr. expressed her dissatisfaction with Erisco Foods’ Nagiko Tomato Mix on September 17. In response to her negative review, Erisco Foods reportedly had her arrested, which caught the attention of the FCCPC.
Babatunde Irukera, the executive vice-chairman of FCCPC, confirmed that the commission’s operatives had verified the consumer’s arrest. He stated on his Twitter account, “@fccpcnigeria operatives have confirmed arrest & transfer of the case to Abuja by the Police Force. She was no longer at the station on arrival. Working to determine exact current location & engaging Force HQ in Abuja. Summons being issued to @EriscoFoodsLtd immediately.”
The FCCPC’s decision to summon Erisco Foods is aimed at obtaining an explanation from the company regarding the arrest. The commission emphasized the importance of ensuring that businesses do not engage in actions that stifle the free expression of citizens.
“This is to ensure that businesses are not engaging in conduct that creates a chilling effect on legitimate citizens’ expressions. Indeed, the author of a public statement owes a certain level of obligation for the truth and veracity of their statements,” the FCCPC stated.
The FCCPC also reminded businesses that there are legally accepted thresholds for fairness and fair speech, which are constitutionally protected. Companies have the right to respond to statements they find outrageous or in violation of the law, but they should not seek or facilitate the arrest of citizens for expressing their opinions.
In response to the situation, Erisco Foods released a statement in which they pledged to take all necessary actions against any malicious attacks on their reputation.
This incident raises important questions about the balance between freedom of expression and corporate responses to online reviews. The FCCPC’s actions serve as a reminder that businesses should be mindful of their responses to consumer feedback and avoid overreactions that could have legal consequences.