Thursday 26 November, 2020

New consumer policy to protect consumers, punish errant businesses

This country's 40-year-old Consumer Protection and Safety Act is to be updated to provide greater protection for consumers.

A new National Consumer Policy has been launched by the Consumer Affairs Division (CAD) of the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

Trade and Industry Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon presented the new policy document on Friday.

She said while the old policy offered a fair degree of protection, there were some gaps which needed to be addressed to ensure that consumers are protected from unscrupulous businesses.

"Although the majority of businesses in Trinidad and Tobago engage in fair trading and generally treat their consumers well, we must seek proactively to protect persons from errant business persons who may unfortunately engage in unfair business practices," Gopee-Scoon said. 

"The new policy will improve consumers' well being by enhancing consumer empowerment and protection and enabling confident participation of consumers and suppliers in the marketplace while also taking into account the country's regional and international commitments."

The new policy seeks to enhance protection for consumers by penalizing businesses for false advertising, restrictive trade practices, misleading employment advertising, unfair transactions, bait advertising, pyramid selling and other infractions.

Under the new legislation, suppliers will be required to provide accurate information on their products to customers, disclose prices of good and services, disclose environmental information, provide quality goods and services and provide refunds or replacements in the event of defective products being sold to consumers.

Failure to adhere to the guidelines will result in the issuance of "Cease and Desist" orders. If these are not complied with, the CAD may apply to the courts for an injunction of for a freeze order to be issued against errant businesses. 

Gopee-Scoon however said the policy will also focus on educating consumers on their rights so they will be better informed before making purchases.

The CAD will be launching public awareness and education campaigns via social media and media advertising, Gopee-Scoon said. 

A series of public lectures and meetings will be held where consumers can learn about unfair trade practices and other related issues.

Gopee-Scoon called for private and public sector businesses to support the new policy and to collaborate to ensure its successful implementation. 

 

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