JIS News

Story Highlights

  • The Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC) continues its thrust of informing, educating and empowering consumers to protect themselves in the marketplace.
  • Speaking with JIS News, Chief Executive Officer of the CAC, Dolsie Allen explains that the CAC has the mandate to ensure that consumers receive fair settlement of just claims, including compensation for misrepresentation or unsatisfactory service...
  • Another matter that the CEO highlights, is the need for consumers to demand receipts from vendors.

The Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC) continues its thrust of informing, educating and empowering consumers to protect themselves in the marketplace.

This is being done through a three-pronged approach of providing complaint resolution services, engaging in market research, and running a vibrant consumer education programme.

Speaking with JIS News, Chief Executive Officer of the CAC, Dolsie Allen explains that the CAC has the mandate to ensure that consumers receive fair settlement of just claims, including compensation for misrepresentation or unsatisfactory service, including the purchase of items that are defective or do not meet the anticipated need or requirement.

She encourages consumers to “know and stand up for their rights…take the bold step to complain, do it quickly, do not wait for too much time to elapse before you make your complaint, and if you go back to where you purchased the item and have difficulty getting any form of redress, we ask that you call us at the CAC”.

The CEO is reminding consumers of eight basic rights: the right to safety, to be informed, to choose, to be heard, to the satisfaction of basic needs, to redress, to consumer education, and to a healthy environment.

“We educate consumers on their rights and responsibilities because as consumers, you have a responsibility to ask the relevant questions, ensure that you have enough information when you go to do your transactions…ensure that you read the contracts, the small prints, and ask for warranty on high value purchases,” Mrs. Allen advises.

She stresses the need for consumers to “take time out to properly examine items for defects and read tip sheets that are provided at furniture and appliance stores, as these can guide you in your purchasing decisions.”

Another matter that the CEO highlights, is the need for consumers to demand receipts from vendors.

Receipts, she adds, are proof that an item was purchased and the provision of these is also critical if a consumer needs to seek redress.

The receipt, she notes, should have certain basic requirements, including the amount paid, date of purchase and description of goods purchased.

As it relates to lodging complaints with the CAC, the CEO informs that this can be done by calling or visiting any of the offices across the island, or submitting them by post or email.

Mrs. Allen explains that the process of settling complaints include hearing both sides, then negotiating with the parties to reach a favourable settlement and/or redress.

She adds that the Commission regularly participates in several expositions, exhibitions, seminars and other events and activities as a means of reaching consumers and educating them on their rights and responsibilities.

The entity also has a very good network with schools island-wide and makes numerous presentations at business places.

On market research, the CEO explains that the CAC conducts frequent surveys on basic food items, petroleum products and hardware items.

“We usually do a critical items survey that gives baseline price on products that you would need in the event of a natural disaster…so we would know what the price is before a disaster, in order to monitor and ensure that prices are not hiked during that time,” she tells JIS News.

For the 2014/15 financial year and beyond, she says the Commission will continue to educate and sensitise Jamaicans on their rights and obligations in their capacity as consumers, with more focus on some crucial areas.

“We want to roll out and put more focus on the Consumer Protection Tribunal (CPT)…we are hoping that early in the financial year, we will have the Tribunal being operationalised,” Mrs. Allen affirms.

The CPT provides an alternative for aggrieved consumers to file claims in an easy, affordable and timely manner. It is one of several provisions of the Consumer Protection (Amendment) Act, 2012 and is expected to significantly increase consumers’ confidence in the system of redress.

Mrs. Allen notes too, that the Commission will pay keen attention to the issue of the banking code and informs that the banks have been responding quite favourably to the suggestions put forward.

“We will be looking at the micro-financing sector since there has been growth in this area, with a lot of our consumers being engaged in services, so we need to help them to become knowledgeable about the terms and conditions,” Mrs. Allen points out.

“We are trying to see how we can do things differently in terms of being more effective, visible…we are hoping that with the Tribunal off the ground, that will be a big plus for the CAC and if persons see that we are handling their complaints and they are being successful, we are sure that more persons will gravitate towards the use of the CAC as a complaint mechanism,” Mrs. Allen highlights.

For further information on consumer-related issues or queries, persons can call the CAC at toll-free 1-888-991-4470, 906-5425, visit their website at www.cac.gov.jm or facebook page at www.facebook.com/cac.gov.jm.