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Some 76 per cent, or 646, of the more than 850 complaints to the Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC) have been resolved this financial year, with all but one, brought before the Commission’s Quasi-judicial tribunal, resolved in favour of consumers.
This was announced by State Minister in the Industry, Technology, Energy and Commerce Ministry, Senator Kern Spencer, during his contribution to State of the Nation Debate in the Senate on December 1.
He informed the Senate that, “for the year-to-date, the Tribunal has had seven sittings during which 16 cases were heard”. “Since the enactment of the Consumer Protection Act in 2005, there have been, in all, 10 sittings, dealing with 21 cases, with all but one resolved in favour of consumers”.
Senator Spencer said that special mention must be made of the role of the CAC in facilitating the resolution of claims and complaints related to the release of substandard cement in the trade by Caribbean Cement Company Limited (CCCL).
During the period April 1 to October 31, the CAC resolved some 38 of the 93 cement cases that were referred to it.
In the meantime, Senator Spencer said more than $24 million was secured on the behalf of aggrieved customers. These secured funds were disbursed for cases relating to rebates, refunds, payments and compensation, with $15.4 million of the amount representing cement claims.
He pointed out that much work was done this financial year to soften the adversarial relationship which prevailed between the consumer and vendor, informing that some five commodity related surveys have been conducted islandwide by the CAC.
Stating that the sensitisation thrust would be sustained well into 2007/08, Senator Spencer said “the Commission will continue its effort to successfully bring about changes in behaviour and attitudes that have tended to cast the relationship between purchasers and vendors as confrontational”.
The agency will seek to do this through its current work programmes as well as through increasing its investigative capacity to become proactive in calibrating relationships between vendors and purchasers in the evolving Jamaican commercial landscape,” he added.
The CAC had, in June of this year, retained the services of an attorney, who worked with CCCL to deal with the complaints from consumers regarding faulty cement. These were satisfactorily resolved through mediation.
This intervention by the CAC led to the amendment of inspection procedures to allow consumers to receive a duplicate of the assessment report before inspectors leave their premises. The complainant may now sign to attest to the conduct of an investigation on his premises and receive a copy of the investigator’s report.
Furthermore, a protocol is now in place for the use of independent assessors in the event that there is a dispute with regard to the amount offered for settlement.