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State Minister in the Ministry of Industry, Investment, and Commerce, Michael Stern, is advising that the Ministry will be vigilant in monitoring the local used car trade, to ensure that Jamaica does not become a dumping ground for what he describes as “energy inefficient guzzlers” from overseas markets.
This, he says, is in an effort to protect the interest of consumers, and, by extension, the country.
Speaking at the Annual General Meeting of the Jamaica Used Car Dealers Association (JUCDA) at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, in Kingston on Thursday (September 11), Mr. Stern said the prices of these vehicles are currently being “drastically” reduced in developed countries, such as the United States (US) and Britain, noting that this could prove tempting to local dealers.
“We anticipate that, as the developed countries seek to phase out these vehicles, many dealers will be tempted to import [them], in order to make a ‘killing’, on the local market. This is inimical to the national interest, and we will use moral suasion, in the first instance, to dampen this temptation,” Mr. Stern stated.
The State Minister noted that the JUCDA has been doing a “fairly good job” in assisting to preserve the integrity of the local trade, but stressed the need for more to be done.
“In the face of rising fuel prices and the global focus of environmental concerns, we must emphasise that the increased use of environmentally clean and fuel efficient vehicles are on our (Government’s) minds. Next year, in our Budget presentation, you will see what the Ministry of Finance (and the Public Service) will do regarding these vehicles, as discussion will continue on the policy direction,” he informed.
Mr. Stern disclosed that the Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC) has been emphasising the need for consumers to exercise caution when purchasing vehicles, pointing out that this is the area where the organisation has been receiving most of its complaints.
“During the past financial year, the Commission received approximately 199 complaints, and has been able to secure in excess of $12 million on behalf of aggrieved customers. We are encouraging customers to be more responsible in their purchase decisions [when] disposing of funds, especially with high value investments such as motor vehicles,” he urged.
Mr. Stern also pointed out that the CAC received complaints in relation to persons not undertaking the requisite due diligence prior to purchases, as well as individuals making significant down payments of upwards $1M, without obtaining receipts for transactions.
“The Consumer Affairs Commission has been instructed to expedite negotiations with the (Jamaica) Used Car Dealers Association, in order to arrive an appropriate code of conduct,.which outlines expectations of vendors and consumers, and the effective redress mechanisms,” he informed.
Regarding cases received by the Fair Trading Commission (FTC), Mr. Stern advised that the Commission received some 116 during the 2007/08 fiscal year. Of this number, 84 were classified as misleading information, with used car dealers being one of two groups accounting for the majority of this figure, the other being telecommunications service providers.
“They used marketing promotions material to provide customers with information that is inaccurate. In Jamaica, the acquisition of a motor vehicle represents [an] all important asset. As we try to satisfy the taste and affordability of the consumer. we must protect the interest of the consumer. It is important, because it is a serious asset [of] value for them, and therefore, the conduct of our affairs should be served in the national interest,” he said.