JIS News

The Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC) was able to recover in excess of over $16 million for aggrieved consumers during the financial year just ended.
Most of the refunds were from the automobile sector, where of the 2,329 complaints lodged for the period, 265 related to faulty motor vehicles, leading to $12 million being refunded to consumers.
This is a vast increase over the $2.5 million received from the industry in 2003/04 and $3 million in 2002/04.
Director of Research Information and Communications, Raymond Pryce, informs JIS News, that there has been an increase in the number of motor vehicle complaints and the value of the payouts have also been increasing.
“Motor vehicles cost more money now in 2005 than the similar model in 2000. If there is a complaint involving a motor vehicle purchase and the resolution demands a full refund, you may see one complaint valuing close to $4 million. So it is not just the number in terms of the quantity of complaints that have increased over the years but the value of each complaint and the overall body of complaints handled by the CAC,” he explains.
Mr. Pryce says that no complaint is too small or too large to be handled by the CAC. He points out that the majority of complaints, which come to the CAC, reflect a second attempt by the consumer to rectify an issue.
“Most times, the consumer seeks to have the matter resolved at the source by the vendor and what this tells us is that if more businesses had a proper complaint handling policy in place, then many of the complaints we receive might never have come to our attention,” he reasons.
He informs that the CAC tries to have a complaint resolved within 10 working days, but oftentimes, solutions are reached within a day or two or even an hour. However, sometimes the nature of the complaint makes that 10-day timeline unachievable but that is typically in cases where more than a third party is involved, Mr. Pryce says.
He notes that there are varied factors to be taken into consideration as it regards the timeframe in which complaints are dealt with. “For instance, a consumer will bring something to our attention and oftentimes, we have to refer to the Bureau of Standards Jamaica and they will then do the testing as per quality and standard. We therefore have to await that process and when we get the report the clock begins to tick again,” he further explains.
As the CAC seeks ways of creating an even friendlier environment for vendors and consumers, Mr. Pryce says there are regular meetings with the business community, “to share with them the trends in terms of complaints that we handle and point to the mechanisms that they can incorporate. that might see the number of the customers filing complaints with them and therefore with us, falling overtime.”
He notes, that as competition increases, more businesses have put complaints divisions in place and are adding new features and mechanisms to make their businesses more attractive.
“Because of competition, the requests are increasing and pointing to a need for businesses to be assisted in remaining competitive or to increase competitiveness,” Mr. Pryce says.
With the coming into being of the CARICOM Single Market Economy (CSME) Mr. Pryce says the CAC will be working closely with similar consumer agencies throughout the region. Already, he says, the agency has informal and structured working relationships with a number of agencies in other Caribbean countries and “the CAC was one of the participants in a regional process that determined what is good customer service and what was the best way of handling various types of complaints”.
The CAC, he says, also recently hosted a delegation from Ghana to observe Jamaica’s approach to consumer education and handling of complaints.
Turning to the issue of the Consumer Protection Act (CPA), Mr. Pryce says the legislation seeks to provide a uniformed and standardized consumer protection framework throughout the region, noting that a number of CARICOM members states have consumer protection laws based on the CPA model.

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