Consumer Protection Remains A Mirage

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Consumer protection legislation is urgently needed in the BVI, but Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly and Fifth District Representative, Hon. Delores Christopher does not believe that the blame for the extended delay of the Bill should be laid squarely at the feet of the NDP government.

According to Hon. Christopher the legislation has be languishing for decades and this administration – she noted – is working on it. The Deputy Speaker’s comment came after Leader of the Opposition Hon. Andrew Fahie announced that the Bill should be rushed now to assist in dealing with post Irma issues.

While not directly aiming her comments at the Leader of the Opposition the Deputy Speaker’s comments during the 16 November continuation of the House of Assembly sitting was pointed.

Hon. Christopher said: “Everything takes time that’s true, some of these things were around a long time. Talking about consumer protection… I am sure…how many years that might be a good 25, 30 years with several administrations and it aint reach the House yet.”

“Things take time. You had to redraft it. You couldn’t find where it was poked in some desk when some other government didn’t deal with it, but if we bring it now you will still hear some criticism,” she added.

Prior to Hon. Christopher’s contribution to the debate on the Micro Business Companies Act 2017, the Leader of the Opposition in his debate contribution told the House that the Bill should be rushed: “With the same haste, legislation like the Consumer Protection and those, must come…because too many things are happening now that I thought that by now if there is one legislation we could have rushed, would have been that one,” Hon. Fahie declared.

The Leader of the Opposition further told the House: “The legislation to help our people on the ground we need it…People think that consumer protection only deals with the consumer but there is also another side.”

Since the passage of hurricane Irma Hon. Fahie has been championing the cause of a speedy implementation of the long awaited consumer protection legislation. Prior to his repeat call in last week’s House of Assembly sitting the Opposition Leader made the point during his guest appearance on a ZBVI radio program on 24 October.

The Island Sun has for the past 30 years published many editorials about the need of consumer protection legislation, promise after promise, government after government did nothing: just lipservice – sometime. As the adage goes “Legislation delayed is Legislation denied” while the many offenders go to the bank laughing all the way.

Mr. Fahie suggested that Government should have pushed to implement consumer protection law in the BVI. “It was a beautiful time to rush the consumer protection legislation, and to bring the penalties very severe for anyone who doesn’t pass on the savings that the businesses would have received. As a result of whatever they would have reduced the duties or whatever to help the people, but the more our businesses make money the more the businesses will have the civil and cooperate responsibility to hire our people,” Hon. Fahie said.

The First District representative further explained that with the legislation Government would have been better able to persuade the businesses to pass the savings on to the people. “When you give away all that revenue you put yourself in a bind, because now you have nothing coming in but bills still to pay.”

Last year October Junior Minister for Trade and Investment Promotion, Hon. Marlon Penn announced that he was gunning for the implementation of consumer protection in the Territory. In fact, Hon. Penn informed the House of Assembly that the BVI was visited by a CARICOM group that is preparing a consumer protection legislation.

During the 23 September 2016 sitting of the House of Assembly, Hon. Penn said: “We are also looking at the issues of consumer affairs. We had a visit last week from a group from CARICOM who is actually drafting a model legislation that relates to consumer protection and consumer affairs issues.”

While in the Territory the group had discussions and met with some of the key BVI stakeholders. Additionally, the Junior Minister disclosed that following the CARICOM group visit the Territory participated in a regional meeting and gave input and recommendations on the draft legislation.

Hon. Penn noted that the Territory’s recommendations in the draft legislative framework was important because of the intent to use the draft as a guide for BVI. He further explained that the framework will be used to strengthen the BVI’s consumer protection and consumer affairs legislative framework.

“The view is to have that (draft) looked at by this same committee that has looked at the overall restructuring of our trade legislation. I think it’s important for us. We have a legislative framework that needs some restructuring. There is some work that needs to be done as it relates to anti-competitive behavior, and having an additional legislation that we currently do not have under our current legislative framework … are some of the areas … we would like to look at in our overall review and assessment,” the Junior Minister told the House.

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