The Ministry of Transport and Public Works and the Competition and Fair Trading Commission (CFTC) have noted with great concern that a number of minibuses and buses are taking advantage of the global COVID 19 pandemic to exploit passengers by charging excessive and unreasonable bus fares.
A market surveillance and price monitoring exercise jointly carried out by the Commission and the Ministry of Transport and Public Works showed that, despite two consecutive downward fuel price adjustments, bus fares had increased by unreasonably high margins ranging from 40% to 200%. By charging excessively despite the substantial fuel price reductions, bus operators are in serious breach of Section 43 of the Competition and Fair Trading Act and the Consumer Protection Act.
In assessing whether fares were excessive or not, the Ministry of Transport and Public Works and the Commission took into account prevailing fares by the same bus operators prior to the COVID outbreak as benchmark fares. After wide stakeholder consultations involving the Public Transport Association, Minibus Owners Association of Malawi, Passenger Welfare Association and Malawi Police Service, the Ministry and the Commission determined that any bus fare increase by a margin of more than 40% constituted excessive pricing in blatant violation of the Competition and Fair Trading Act.
Further, the joint market surveillance revealed that Owners of Minibuses and Buses were not complying with Road Traffic Regulations which require bus operators to display fare-tables or fare charts. Precisely, Regulation 10(2) of the Road Traffic (Public Service Vehicles) (Operation) Regulations of 2000 stipulates that:
No person shall cause or permit a bus to be used on a road unless the conductor or where there is no conductor, the driver has available a fare-table for the route on which such bus is operating.
The Regulations further stipulate that fare-tables shall be produced on request to any person reasonably requiring to examine such fare-tables.
In view of the foregoing, the Ministry and the Commission wish to advise all Minibus and Bus Owners that from Monday 15th June 2020, there will be enhanced joint Enforcement and Surveillance activities on all routes to be carried out by the Directorate of Road Traffic and Safety Services (DRTSS) and the Competition and Fair Trading Commission. The purpose of this joint exercise is to enforce compliance with Road Traffic Regulations, the Competition and Fair Trading Act and the Consumer Protection Act. The Ministry and the Commission further wish to appeal to the general public to report all Minibus or Bus operators who do not display or supply them with bus fare-tables and are charging excessively to the following numbers:
- DRTSS Toll Free Line: 4040 (for Airtel subscribers only)
- Southern Region: 0995008495 & 0995008502
- Eastern Region: 0995008509 & 0995008456
- Central Region: 0995008482 & 0995008483
- Northern Region: 0995008506 & 0995008459
- CFTC Toll Free Line: 2489 (for Airtel & TNM subscribers only)