Consumer Protection Act 2020 – Know your rights! By Chris-Ann Mofford

In 2020, the Government of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines passed the Consumer Protection Act. This piece of legislation is indeed forward-thinking and has the ability to transform the consumers’ experience in the market place.

As consumers, we do have rights as buyers. This Act seeks to protect these rights.

The reality of today is that the effects of the COVID -19 pandemic will impact every aspect of life and living. Consumers in this period must be more vigilant than ever before, since many sellers who are grappling with uncertain futures may trespass on the rights of the consumer as a “sustainable response mechanism”.

The consumer is the foundation of any successful marketplace. A producer should therefore always keep in mind the requirements and necessities of a satisfied consumer when providing goods for sale. This obligation is often however neglected by some businessmen who involve themselves in unfair practices where they procure and distribute substandard quality items.

The consumer protection legislation is very comprehensive. It involves both consumers and businessmen. It highlights their rights, responsibilities and various remedies that are available to them. As such, allowing for this piece of legislation to be beneficial to all parties involved.

According to the legislation’s preamble, it is “An Act to provide for the promotion and protection of consumer interests, in relation to the supply of goods and services; to ensure protection of life, health and safety of consumers; to provide for the establishment of a Department responsible for consumer affairs; and for connected purposes”.

This Act has thirteen (13) parts; including how to file complaints, how these complaints are investigated, a procedure to settle complaints, duties of suppliers and what is considered unfair trade practices and unfair terms. It also offers a range of remedies to consumers. Over the next few weeks, the different parts of this Act will be explained in an effort to allow for the general public to have an understanding of the various sections, in doing so, it allows for you – the consumer, to know what rights and remedies are available to you in the event that you feel disadvantaged.

Now here’s a typical example;

Due to COVID-19, you decide to do most of your shopping online. You visit the VinSea Marketplace/Tropical Vincy Buy and Sell on the Facebook platform. While browsing, you saw a television set for $1,000 XCD. The description from the seller states;

SALE! Brand New Samsung Television Set, $1, 000 XCD. No damages. Comes in box.”

You message the seller and arrange to meet so you can purchase this television set. You meet with the seller, the seller indicates to you that he made an error in the advertisement and that the actual cost is $1,200 XCD., you pay for the item and proceed with your “brand new” television set. After you get it home, however, you realize the advertisement was completely false. The television set you received in the box has been used and is slightly damaged, does not work as it should and is actually a brand called “Samying”.  Upon further investigation, you realise that the television set is overpriced, and the same seller listed the same television set on another social media forum for $700 XCD.

You are highly upset! You realize that the seller has engaged in an unfair practice. You would like for a remedy to be available to you.

The Consumer Protection Act then allows for you to file a complaint under Part III (3) to the Consumer Department. It allows for you to be offered a remedy through the different types of alternative dispute resolutions offered in the Act.

I look forward to continuing this conversation with you.

Chris-Ann L Mofford is the holder of a Bachelor of Sciences majoring in Sociology and a Bachelor of Laws from the  UWI, Cave Hill Campus. She also holds a Legal Education Certificate from the Hugh Wooding Law School.  She is called to the Bar to practice in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and is an associate at A C Elliot Attorneys.

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