25-year-old Un-kept promise Keeps Haunting politicians

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Price hikes were used as an illustration by a resident during a call for Government to introduce consumer protection mechanisms.

During a call to the NDP radio program on 19 January the resident pleaded with legislators to help the poor, who are suffering from tragically high prices. The caller told the panel that included Premier and Minister for Finance, Dr. the Hon. D. Orlando Smith: “You need to look out for the poor people…We are suffering. The rich people doing good, the poor people suffering. We are suffering.”

In making his point about unfair pricing the resident said: “People are charging what they want. The only people in this island who have a protection on how they charge are the taxi drivers.”

One example used by the caller was fuel prices, which he says do not usually reflect market oil prices. He mentioned that in cases where the market reports a decrease in oil prices, the pump stations are still charging their normal price: “They are charging too much money for the  fuel…When the fuel goes up in the States 10 cents; they will go up 50 cents here. Somebody needs to look into it.” This is a vexing issue that has generated un-kept promises from various administrations, but no action whatsoever and the public is now resenting it and demanding immediate action.

According to the caller there is no form of price control, and he opined that it’s a set your price how you feel sort of industry: “When you go to a garage, they charge you what they want…When you go in the supermarket, the people them charge you what them want. We ain’t got nobody to cry out to…Poor people are suffering in this country; NDP needs to get a consumer affairs protection office to protect the poor people,” he added.

big retail outlets run out of basics like milk and instead of restocking in time they grab the opportunity to sell old stock of canned milk. The same applies to salad dressings, preserves, jams etc. And the prices keep going up, no wonder more people go to St. Thomas for their shopping; some do it just to get even with those selling at ridiculous prices.

In response Premier Smith stated that the Government is looking into the possibility of establishing a consumer protection agency. The BVI Leader said: “We have been also speaking as a government and the past government of a consumer protection facility, and this is something that again we will be looking at very closely from the Trade and Investment Promotions Department.”

In 2013, then Governor Boyd McCleary announced that Government will be taking a consumer protection legislation to the House of Assembly during the Speech from the Throne which was delivered on 8 December.

This kind of promise is not taken seriously by the public who will be convinced only by action: what is required is a credible Consumer Protection Committee formed by people elected by consumers. Members must have no links with politics and with retail or wholesale businesses. A Consumer Protection Agency is fine but the directives should come solely from the Committee and not from government. Price increases will have to be submitted to the committee before being implemented: no exception.

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