The Consumer Protection legislation which has been promised for years is expected to have its first reading in the House of Assembly soon. The announcement was made by Premier and Minister for Finance, Hon. Andrew Fahie during the budget debate on 25 April.
The Premier acknowledged that much of the work was done by current Leader of the Opposition Hon. Marlon Penn in his past role as Junior Minister for Trade and Investment. However, he announced that the Smith administration was not interested in passing the bill. In making this incidental remark the Premier said: “They did not believe in it because the member… did not have anything to conflict with it coming forward, but those who had [conflict]are gone and the people of the Virgin Islands will get the consumer protection coming forward.”
In explaining that the Bill will be in the House soon Premier Fahie said: “We have already passed it in Cabinet, it is to come on the agenda of the House of Assembly and going to get this consumer protection passed.”
The Premier further stated that he wishes for Hon. Penn to get the credit he deserves for the legislation and offered to have the legislation reflect this contribution: “If you want us name it the Fahie Administration and Marlon Penn Consumer Protection Bill we’ll name it that,” the Premier said.
Previous Steps to Ready Bill
The BVI has been waiting for Consumer Protection legislation for at least 30 years: various governments made promises they never kept, some possibly deliberately. Last year it was announced that the Premier’s Office was expected to give the go ahead for the necessary legal steps to facilitate consumer protection in the Territory.
The announcement was made by Cabinet on 1 November and was announced on 14 November. It was stated that Cabinet “reviewed and considered the Trade Policy Review Committee Report on the activities undertaken and recommendations for a policy framework for trade and economic development and approved the National Trade Policy of the Virgin Islands, which sets out the overall policy framework and direction for trade, business, investment and fair trade (competition and consumer affairs).”
It was further mentioned that the Premier’s Office would instruct the Attorney General’s Chambers to draft the appropriate legal instruments.
The legal requirements needed to facilitate consumer protection legislation and enforcement in the Territory were mentioned by Attorney General, Baba Aziz while speaking in the House of Assembly in September 2018. At that time Attorney General who was responding to comments about delays made by Hon. Penn stressed that he was not the reason the Bill was on snail pace.
During that sitting the Attorney General said: “I would like to straighten the position for the general public that even if there was delay, the Attorney General and his office did not intentionally or knowingly delay that Bill. In fact, our office has drafted several Consumer Protection Bills. It started in 2004, we revised it in 2011, and we revised another one in 2013.”
The Attorney General explained that the delay was being caused by a legal issue. “In this instance, there was a legal conundrum. The legal conundrum was simple, there is the intention to have a Trade Commission which is intended to be a Statutory Corporation. But that Statutory Corporation has not yet come into force and the Consumer Affairs Division is intended to be under the Trade Commission Corporation.”
Therefore, Hon. Aziz explained that the Bill was not brought to the House because it would be referring to a non-existent body. The Attorney General further explained that when the Trade Commission is established, then there will be full harmony with the consumer protection legislation as he noted that the Consumer Affairs Division is intended to be under the Trade Commission Corporation.