Consumer Protection Act to go before Legislative Committee


Minister of Commerce, Science and Technology, Phillip Paulwell said that the final draft of the Consumer Protection Act, designed to protect the public from unfair trading practices, has been completed and is to be shortly sent to the Legislation Committee of Parliament for review.
He said, “with the promulgation of the Act, legislative sanctions will be applied where consumers continue to experience problems such as non-delivery of items purchased or obstruction in obtaining fair redress. It will also assist consumers by reducing the length of time taken to resolve disputes”.
The Minister was speaking at the opening of the Customer Service Association’s conference yesterday (Oct.2) at the Knutsford Court Hotel in Kingston.
Formed in 2002, the Association is made up of businesses involved in service delivery including hotels and banks and its aim is to improve service standards nationwide.
The Minister welcomed the formation of the body and expressed the hope that it would “play a leading role in taking customer service to new levels in Jamaica. It cannot be business as usual”.
Calling on business to respect the rights of customers, he said the Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC) received approximately 2,000 complaints against 800 businesses and 70 individuals between April 2002 and March 2003 and based on current trends, it was expected that the number of complaints lodged in the 2003/04 financial year would exceed 2,000.
Minister Paulwell noted that the Fair Trading Commission (FTC) had also received a number of complaints of unfair training practices, with most of them related to misleading advertising. “Indeed, one factor that contributes to the continuous increase in cases of misleading advertising is that Jamaican consumers are becoming more aware of their rights concerning product quality warranties,” the Minister said.
He pointed out that, “customer service is fundamentally about respecting customer needs, and some of our companies will have to realize that the general public is wary of advertisements and sales approaches that distort or lie about product benefits or that manipulate people into hasty purchases”.
Turning to the public sector, the Minister said that service delivery has been improved and strengthened in government agencies to enable them to more effectively respond to the needs of the public.
He informed that over the past seven years, public sector reform have been a featured item on the government’s agenda, driven by increased access to information technology, and the rising expectations of society in terms of the variety, cost and quality of service expected from the state.
“We are moving away from a situation where, traditionally, our public services are designed for the convenience of people who work in them, rather than for the people they are meant to serve,” he said.
Minister Paulwell said it was in recognition of this that the government has adopted a Citizens Charter, where the citizen is recognized as a customer who is entitled to high quality service and whose interest must always come first.
The Minister informed that so far, some 25 public sector organizations have adopted charters and ministries and departments were expected to implement customer service improvement programmes, aimed at improving standards. In addition, he said by 2012, all public sector entities would commit to high quality service, outlined in a charter.
He said that the Government has also transformed eight public sector agencies into executive agencies, resulting in an improvement in the range, quality and cost effectiveness of the services provided.
The Commerce, Science and Technology Minister also informed that customer service was being improved within the public sector through the establishment of a Standards and Monitoring Unit in the Cabinet Office, which is responsible for the monitoring and promotion of customer service improvement.
“A minimum set of service standards have been introduced, which all ministries and departments are required to adopt. I understand that some 75 per cent of public sector entities have been sensitized and introduced to the customer service improvement programme. Customer service training has also been introduced at the Management Institute for National Development (MIND),” he said.
The two-day conference brought together customer service professionals to explore wealth-creating possibilities for Jamaica.

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