The Premier’s Office is expected to give the go ahead for the necessary legal steps to be taken to – among other things – 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 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 who – while speaking in the House of Assembly in September – made it clear that he was not delaying efforts to have consumer protection legislation brought to the House of Assembly.
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 is 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, 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, which is a statutory body 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.
Trade Policy Review
A Trade Policy Review Committee which was tasked with delivering recommendations for the development of a Trade Policy in the Territory was set up by Government and given three months to draft the appropriate legislative framework of the Trade Policy.
The Committee was spearheaded by former Junior Minister for Trade, Investment Promotion and Consumer Affairs, Hon. Marlon Penn. It was required to conduct the necessary research and analysis of best practices and make recommendations on the most appropriate model framework that would seek to increase the level of economic activities all the while establishing trust between the Government, the business sector and the consumers.
The Committee held its first meeting on 17 January 2017 with Premier and Minister of Finance, Dr. the Hon. D. Orlando Smith, OBE with Hon. Marlon Penn in attendance. The Committee consisted of a wide cross-section of representatives from government entities, the banking sector, private sector as well as from the BVI Chamber of Commerce and Hotel Association, and legal practitioners.