Government to enhance consumer protections

SKNIS Photo: Minister responsible for Consumer Affairs Honourable Richard Skerritt

Basseterre, St. Kitts, March 11, 2013 (SKNIS): The Government of St. Kitts and Nevis is taking tangible steps to further enhance the protection of consumers.

In an address to mark the local observance of Consumer Awareness Week (March 10 – 15), the Minister responsible for Consumer Affairs Honourable Richard Skerritt reaffirmed that the Government “is fully committed to the protection of all consumers, particularly the poor and most vulnerable in society”and is using a variety of methods to achieve this.

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“The Ministry of International Trade, Industry, Commerce and Consumer Affairs is working diligently to improve the quality of goods and services provided to consumers by promoting consumer awareness and assertiveness and by providing a modern legislative regime and institutional framework that addresses the evolving needs and concerns of consumers,” he stated.

Since appointed head of the Ministry a few weeks ago, Minister Skerritt said he has learnt of “reports of faulty products which can cause injury, complaints against uncaring service providers and irresponsible lending by a financial institution.”

He advised consumers to be vigilant and understand that they have a right to redress and the right to have their problems solved. Safeguards detailed in the Consumer Affairs Act of 2003 protect consumers from misleading and deceptive practices in promotion, supply or sale of goods and services. It also addresses fair contract terms individually negotiated between supplier and consumer.

Additionally, staff from the now closed Supply Office have been reassigned to the Consumer Affairs Department and have been busy ensuring that unfit food supplies are removed from the market and that retailers are not overcharging for items such as evaporated milk, rice, flour or sugar which have stipulated mark-ups under a price control system.

Minister Skerritt emphasized that the Government was mindful of the increasing cost of food globally and said the Ministry will intently focus on the implementation of Price Control Order, SRO 41 of 2007 which gives the Department the legislative authority to enforce prescribed margins on a list of goods.

The Consumer Affairs Minister, who was a successful business and sport executive before his ministerial appointment, explained that “suppliers of goods and services must remember that “what is fair and good for the consumer is good for business, and ultimately good for profits” as “… satisfied customers spend more at the business enterprises that gives them the most satisfaction.”

“This government has a proud record of facilitating a positive investment climate and encouraging profitability,” stressed Minister Skerritt. “The national legislative framework and supporting administrative mechanisms provide the appropriate complement of an enabling environment for business development and expansion, while also allowing for a fair, transparent, mutually beneficial relationship between service provider and consumer.”

The week of activities will be observed under the theme “Consumer Justice Now!” Staff of the Department of Consumer Affairs worshipped with the Weslyan Holiness Church congregation on Sunday to mark the start of the events which climaxes on World Consumer Rights Day (March 15) with a march through the streets of Basseterre.

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