Promotion and Protection Initiatives
CONSUMER PROMOTION AND PROTECTION INITIATIVES
The Commission has sought to engage key stakeholder groups in consumer protection at the national level to build a robust national and regional cooperative information sharing network envisaged in Objectives 4, 5 and 6 as set out in the Five Year Strategic Plan.
Consumer Protection Interventions
The Commission during the period 2010 in collaboration with the CARICOM Secretariat CSME Unit, Caribbean Regional Organization for Standards and Quality (CROSQ), the Caribbean Consumer Council participated in regional sensitization and advocacy sessions in a number of member States of CARICOM on issues of competition and consumer protection consistent with its mandate under Article 186 of Chapter VIII of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas. The countries visited included Antigua and Barbuda, Guyana, St. Kitts and Nevis, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.
These meetings served to increase awareness and knowledge about the Community Competition Policy as set out under Chapter VIII of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas. The CARICOM Competition Commission was introduced to the private sector agencies, public sector and non-governmental organizations with and interest in competition policy and law and consumer protection/welfare.
The role and need for institutions such as the CARICOM Competition Commission in monitoring and facilitating the integration process through the CSME was highlighted. The consumers of CARICOM must be key beneficiaries of this integration process.
The Revised Treaty allocates certain oversight role to the CARICOM Competition Commission but there are specific CARICOM entities tasked with the mandate for implementation, enforcement and monitoring of consumer rights in the region. These include the Caribbean Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality which has among its objectives consumer protection and environmental protection.
There is also a need to facilitate institutions such as the Caribbean Consumer Council to agitate for the rights of consumers and seek the development of harmonized laws in CARICOM. The work of the Caribbean Consumer Council in encouraging the development of a culture of “consumerism” at the national and regional level, and raising the status of consumer affairs in the discourse on national and regional economic and social development is important.
Consumer Protection Forum
As part of its work regarding consumer protection, on 04 July 2012 the CCC established a Consumer Protection Forum, via video conferencing, to facilitate dialogue between national consumer organisations in Member States and the CCC.
These meetings allowed the CCC to learn about the activities that individual national consumer organisations were undertaking and any specific challenges these institutions may face. It is hoped that through this facility, the CCC will be able to forge stronger relationships with the national consumer authorities in the region, as well as promote cooperation between these institutions.
The CCC is using the Consumer Protection Forum to engage the national agencies on two draft research proposals that have been developed by its staff, with the view that they can be finalised and implemented as soon as financial resources become available. The two research proposals seek to:
- Identify the level of awareness about consumer protection law in the Member States of CARICOM
- Determine the level of consumer detriment experienced by consumers in the Member States of CARICOM
The research proposals seek to develop base line data on these two issues that can be used to address the concerns of consumers at the national and regional level. The data collected will provide consumer protection practioners and policy makers with information that is actionable. Appropriate institution and legislative responses can be developed from the data collected that is targeted and focused. It will then be easier to measure the impact of the actions taken by the national consumer bodies and the CCC in response to the concerns identified by consumers.
Additionally, the CCC will continue to engage national competition and consumer agencies in dialogue on areas of mutual importance such as data collection and analysis of consumer complaints, technical assistance, consumer and business education, and advocacy. These actions are consistent with the mandate given to the CCC in Part II of Chapter VIII of the Revised Treaty.