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JIS News

The Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC) received a total of 1,735 complaints from consumers for the period April to December 2009, representing a 35 per cent increase in the number of complaints over the similar period for 2008.
Speaking with JIS News, Communication Specialist at the CAC, Miss Dorothy Campbell stated that of the 1,735 complaints received, 1,464 cases have been resolved, an 84 per cent resolution rate.
“The CAC has facilitated compensation or refund of nearly $3 million, bringing it to over $18 million for the total refund compensation since the start of the financial year,” Miss Campbell said.
“I must clarify that this money goes directly into the pockets of the consumers. We retain none of it, it is simply compensation based on a case by case basis and all goes to the consumer that has been wronged,” she added.
Of the total the most complaints were received for the electrical equipment and appliances category, followed by complaints about kitchenware.
In explaining the 35 per cent increase, Miss Campbell stated that “consumers are going out for bargains and some of the due diligence is not being done completely.”
“So you will find that persons will pick up items that malfunction, they would not get the type of redress that they ought to and then they would come to us to seek redress on their behalf,” Miss Campbell said.
Meanwhile, the Communication Specialist stated that despite a number of constraints, the CAC will continue to educate persons about their rights as consumers.
“We have a continuous education programme for consumers. We are not out there as much as we would like to be because of a number of constraints, but we appreciate the fact that the media has always worked in partnership with us to help us disseminate information to consumers,” Miss Campbell said.
“We hope to expand on the number of opportunities we have had. Year to date we had about 540 exposures on radio, television, print and so on. Very little of that came out of pocket because we asked for gratis and we got it. But in terms of the information going out the media has come on board with us and we hope that for 2010 they will continue to do so,” she added.
In addition Miss Campbell urged consumers to do their homework before they actually spend. She noted that “while we can talk about the over $18 million that we have collected year to date on behalf of consumers, it is not something we would want to do after the fact.”
“We want to have consumers do their homework, find out where the best quality items are, learn what are the characteristics of say a five burner stove that would make it the best brand, call on the Bureau of Standards Jamaica to find out which ones have been tested and proven to be the best quality and shop in places where you trust the brand that you are buying,” Miss Campbell advised.
“While we can’t endorse a brand we certainly endorse the outlets, the vendors that offer the best quality products to the consumer. So we are asking consumers to take a little more responsibility in terms of putting out there money for high value items like stoves and washing machine. Do a little bit of homework; wait a little longer before you actually take your money out of your pocket,” she added.
In the meantime, Miss Campbell stated that although more consumers were calling on the CAC for advice, the agency is still not satisfied with the level of awareness amongst consumers about their rights.
“There are still not enough consumers who understand double ticketing on the counter. Your right is to ask for the lower price if there are two different prices for an item. A lot of consumers don’t know that if you have defective goods, you can take that goods back to the store and demand your refund or an exchange to an item of equal value,” Miss Campbell noted.
She further added “we have a far way to go in educating consumers about their rights, the fact that they ought to get a proper receipt and not a calculator tape when they purchase an item. The proper receipt should bear the date, address, the unit price of the item, and the General Consumption Tax.”
“We also want to educate consumers that if we find that you are deliberately being mischievous, where you really don’t have a legitimate case against a vendor, you too can be caught in a bind where you might have to compensate for that breach where you might be causing mischief without any just cause. So it’s not just all about the consumer, it is consumer protection, but it is also consumer protection with responsibility,” Miss Campbell said.
The Consumer Affairs Commission, an agency of the Government of Jamaica is dedicated to protecting the interests of consumers. The agency can be contacted for more information at 978-4998, or visit their website at www.consumeraffairsjamaica.gov.jm.

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