Dear Mirror Lawyer, I am a popular waakye seller in Accra. I have been in this business for over 10 years and it has been going well. But just a few months ago, another woman started selling waakye very close to my stall.
She has started stealing my customers and I am not happy about it. She has also started telling people in the area, including my customers, that I have been putting strange concoctions in my food as part of some ‘juju’ rituals to attract people to buy my food.
It certainly isn’t true but I can see it has affected my business. About a week ago, a former customer came over to insult me because he said I charm people into buying my food. I don’t want that woman to sell her waakye close to mine. Please can I take her to court?
Amina Seidu, Alajo
Dear Amina, I am sorry to hear about the fall in the patronage of your waakye. Generally, the law recognises the right of every person to earn a living or to ply a trade. Anyone engaging in a trade or business has the likelihood of attracting competition which in the end can be beneficial especially to the consumer/customer.
However, in some instances, competition can turn unhealthy and if care is not taken, one may end up being dragged before the law courts.
In law, there is what is termed ‘unfair competition’ which is any practice that causes economic harm to a business or trade through a deceptive or wrongful business practice; and it may take many forms including trademark infringement, false advertising, unauthorised substitution, misappropriation of trade secrets, false representation, damage of another person’s goodwill and reputation, among others.
In Ghana, the Protection against Unfair Competition Act, 2000 (Act 589) states clearly in Section 4 that “Any false or unjustifiable allegation in the course of industrial or commercial activities that discredits or is likely to discredit another person’s enterprise or its activities, in particular the products and services offered by that enterprise, constitutes an act of unfair enterprise”.
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It may occur with regard to the manufacturing process or product, the quality or quantity or other characteristics of a product or service, the conditions in which a product or service is offered or provided, the price of a product or service or how the price is calculated.
If you choose to sue her for unfair competition, you will have to prove that she has indeed by her words or acts adversely affected your waakye business.
Please note that you cannot force her out of her spot; however, you may ask for a court order against her in the form of a perpetual injunction to stop her from saying things that will discourage people from patronising your food.
You also have the right under law to ask for compensation from her in court in the form of damages for the harm she has caused to your business. Alternatively, if you think her statements that you use ‘juju’ has defamed you in the eyes of your customers who are right-thinking members of the society, you could also sue for damages for defamation.