CPA 2020 – Know your rights – Part Two – By Chris-Ann Mofford

To recap, I had previously introduced the Consumer Protection Act 2020. In that article, a succinct explanation of the importance of this piece of legislation was highlighted  – emphasizing the importance of YOU – the consumer, and what might be an appropriate remedy to ensure transactions are favourable to both consumers and sellers.

It is important to note that this piece of legislation has not yet been proclaimed – meaning it has not yet been announced publicly. It is with great anticipation that just like you, I await its proclamation.

Now, let us delve into this piece of legislation.

With Reference to Article 1; a hypothetical example where a consumer was disadvantaged through an online transaction was featured (see example below). If any consumer making a purchase stumbles into a similar scenario, the next logical step would be to find out what can be done to remedy this – if anything.

In this week’s article we would peruse Part III – Complaints as a subsequent measure to ensure impartial buyer-seller transactions. This article would explain how complaints are made along with its grounds and procedure in an effort to further corroborate Consumer Protection.

Here’s the example from Article 1, as it would become relevant later on.

“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.

Let us move onto the important questions;

Step 1: Who can file a complaint?

Section 10(1) of the legislation states “…a consumer who alleges that he has been adversely affected in relation to goods or services he has acquired or agreed to acquire may lodge a complaint to the Department…”.

For the purposes of this piece of legislation, the “Department” refers to a governmental department responsible for consumer affairs, by a name to be announced (Section 8(1)).

Section 10(2) further goes on to state that the following persons may also lodge a complaint with the Department:

–       A recognized consumer organization

–       two or more consumers jointly sharing the same interests and filing a complaint would be beneficial to all consumers involved.

–       the crown/state in its individual capacity or as a representative of the interests of consumers in general.

Now, remember you are that consumer who would have purchased the damaged, used television set, after being promised a “brand new” item?

–     Section 10 allows for you to file a complaint. You must show that you are the consumer, and that you were adversely affected by the goods you have obtained.

Step 2: What are the grounds for filing a complaint? – You must then assess your situation to determine whether you fall within at least one of the following categories in order for your complaint to be heard. If you are unsure of this, it is always best to consult with an attorney to clarify any doubts you may have.

Section 11 states a range of grounds that consumers can file complaints under.

The grounds include but are not limited to:

–     An unfair trade practice

–     Goods bought by him or agreed to be bought by him suffer from one or more defects

–    The supplier/seller has charged for the goods or services a price in excess of the price that he would have been listed, as agreed between the parties or a price fixed by legislation.

–     Hazardous (to life and safety when used) goods being offered to sale to the public.

The “brand new”  television set you agreed to purchase, came with defects. If you can recall, “the television set you received in the box has been used and is slightly damaged and does not work as it should”. Further, the television set was listed as costing $1,000XCD on the advertisement, but the seller was adamant that he made an error and placed an additional $200XCD on the item. In reviewing section 11 of the Act, you would realise that you fall into at least two of the grounds, that is, goods obtained with one or more defects and the supplier has charged in excess of the price listed. So, what next?

Step 3: What is the procedure for filing a complaint?

Section 12 highlights the procedure for filing a complaint. A complaint may be lodged to the Department either orally or in writing, this includes telephone calls and electronic means.

Where a complainant (someone adversely affected by goods obtained) contemplates taking legal action or any further action in relation to the complaint, the complaint shall be made in writing and filed to the Department. The complainant in their complaint to the department should include the alleged acts or omission that the supplier/seller would have contravened under this act or what grounds you are filing under and produce supporting evidence or documents.

Commendably, the legislation makes provisions for persons who may have disabilities such as those visually impaired and persons who are unable to read and write. It allows for the Department to actively assist those persons in the procedure of making their complaints effectively. (Section 12(4))

As clearly highlighted in the legislation, complaints can be made through telephone calls, electronic means or in other forms or oral or written communications. If you feel as though you wish to file a complaint and you are unable to do so, as stated, the Department would provide and actively assist with filing.

In the next article, I would discuss with you the methods of settlement that are available to a complainant.

I look forward to continuing this conversation with you.

Chris-Ann L Mofford is 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.

Email: [email protected]

Telephone: 1784 458-4212

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