Consumer Protection On The Horizon

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While there has been promises of an actual Consumer Protection legislation and it was even announced that the Bill is being worked on – His Excellency Governor Augustus Jaspert disclosed that a Consumer Protection Policy was already approved. It is still unclear whether the two are the same or one is a component of the other.

The announcement on the Consumer Protection Policy was made in the 13 September Speech from the Throne. His Excellency said: “Our Government also recently approved the Consumer Protection Policy, which will seek to ensure fair and equitable treatment of consumers.”

In fact, the Governor said that the appropriate legal instruments for the Policy are being drafted based on the CARICOM Model, and should be ready for public consultation by the fourth quarter of this year.

This announcement of a Consumer Protection Policy comes after Junior Minister for Trade and Investment Hon. Marlon Penn promised that the Consumer Protection legislation which he has been championing for a while will be laid on the table of the House of Assembly by summer 2018. However, on 17 August the House of Assembly was prorogued dashing the Junior Minister’s summer aspirations.

The fact that the Bill was not in the House at the moment was addressed by Hon. Penn on 14 August during the Other Business segment of the House of Assembly. While addressing his colleagues the Junior Minister said that from a governmental perspective everything was done to advance the legislation and that rests with the Attorney General’s chambers.

In noting that the Bill already passed through the Committee Cabinet stage the Junior Minister said: “I know Cabinet has made a decision, Hon. Premier to move ahead with the Consumer Protection legislation. It’s been in the Attorney General’s Chambers now for a few months, and I want to encourage the Attorney General who is sitting with us today that we need to have that legislation brought forward to bring some type of control, so kind of guidance; and redress to the commerce market of the BVI.”

Island Sun editorials on the need of a Consumer Protection legislation go back to the 1990s: some promises no facts so far and we still need to see what kind of bill is this.

The Consumer Protection legislation is expected to protect both business and consumers and Hon. Penn said that he does not understand how such a vital piece of legislation continues to lag behind. He said that he knows that the Bill could be passed with expediency and said that he has noted instances where other bills were passed recently.

“I’ve seen pieces of legislation that weren’t in the pipeline before this come to this Hon. House, this legislation needs to be shown some level of priority now and I am putting it on public record that we have done the work that we needed to do to ensure that you had what you needed to draft this legislation and you need to bring it to the House of Assembly so the people can get a legislation that can work in their favor. Not just for the consumer but the business sector as well in this Territory,” he said.

Hon. Penn said that this long awaited Bill should be passed soon especially in consideration of the issues that surfaced following the hurricanes last year. In recounting matters such as price gouging the Junior Minister said: “Specifically what we experienced a year ago after the passage of hurricanes Irma and Maria and the level of gouging and unfair business practices that ensued after those storms, I think it is important Hon. AG for us to have a draft legislation that comes before this House before the end of summer so that we could at least start the process of approval of such legislation.  We promised the people this legislation, we’ve done the work to bring it forward.”

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