(Photo Credit: BVI Platinum News) File photo
Misconceptions that business owners had about the Consumer Protection Legislation were allayed on Tuesday evening (July 9), as the Government kicked off the public consultations on the Consumer Protection Legislation. This first of a series of public meetings on the Bill was held at Marias By the Sea.
One of the main misconceptions about the legislation is the opinion that it would usher in an era of price control in the Territory, and Junior Minister for Trade and Economic Development, Sharie de Castro explained to the gathering that this is not quite so.
The Junior Minister explained that the Bill was long in coming and dates back as far as 1995. In fact, Hon. de Castro referred to the current readiness of the Bill for passage as the tackling of a huge, but necessary task.
As it relates to the price control opinion on the Bill, the Junior Minister told the gathered business owners that the legislation is much more.
“Let's not make price control the focus of the Bill. We're trying to create an atmosphere for an open market, fair trade and fair competition,” she said.
“It is not just about price control, it is not to tilt the scale in any in one direction or in the favor of any individual, but holistically looking at an approach to take this agenda forward,” Hon de Castro explained.
The Junior Minister also noted that the Consumer Protection Act initiates the setting up of the Trade Commission, which transcends the Trade Department and oversees this initial Act along with a slew of Acts that would be coming on stream to work in tandem with the Consumer Protection Legislation.
This Trade Commission, she explained, will play an integral role in the development of the consumer protection mandate.
“The setup of the Trade Commission is what initiates the Act. There will be a tribunal as well that seeks, that deals with disputes and ensuring that those are dealt with.”
In further reference to the implementation of the Act, it was noted that in the future there will be Consumer Protection Inspection Officers going out to various businesses in the Territory to look at things like pricing and dates.
Meanwhile, Policy Analyst in the Premier's Office, Lizette George explained that the Consumer Protection Bill is divided into 12 parts. George also mentioned that the Act was created specifically to promote and protect consumers' rights and is modeled on the CARICOM Consumer Affairs Protection Bill.
Among the 12 parts of the Bill are areas that deal with Complaints and Investigations, Consumer Rights, Duties of Suppliers, Unfair Trade Practices, Unfair Terms, Product Liability, Consumer Safety, Recall of Goods, and Distance Selling.