- The CPT provides an alternative for aggrieved consumers to file claims in an easy, affordable and timely manner
- The CPT is one of several provisions of the Consumer Protection (Amendment) Act, 2012
- The tribunal’s establishment will “significantly increase consumers’ confidence in the system of redress.”
Persons with unresolved issues relating to transactions with goods and service providers are being encouraged to utilize the services of the newly established Consumer Protection Tribunal (CPT), to reach settlements, particularly through mediation facilitated by the Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC).
This urging comes from State Minister for Industry, Investment and Commerce, Hon. Sharon Ffolkes-Abrahams, who explains that the CPT provides an alternative for aggrieved consumers to file claims in an easy, affordable and timely manner, rather than resorting to the courts, which could result in protracted delays and costs.
The CPT, which was established earlier this year, is one of several provisions of the Consumer Protection (Amendment) Act, 2012, which incorporates a slate of revisions to the Consumer Protection Act, 2005.
Speaking at the CAC’s Consumer Protection Act (CPA) sensitization workshop, at the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown Kingston, on September 18, Mrs. Ffolkes-Abrahams argued that the tribunal’s establishment will “significantly increase consumers’ confidence in the system of redress.”
She said the CAC’s expanded authority and the redress mechanisms now established under the amended CPA, will “significantly impact how consumer complaints are handled from now on.”
In addition to the CPT’s establishment, other provisions under the amended CPA include: empowering the CAC to keep proper records of all complaints and actions taken and initiate investigations of breaches, where deemed necessary; levying applicable criminal sanctions; and sanctioning mandatory refunding of payments with applicable interest to consumers where purchasers elect not to accept goods not delivered within specified timelines advertised by providers.
Mrs. Ffolkes-Abrahams said in the CPT’s establishment, “we now have a quasi judicial body” bearing the “characteristics and powers” of a court. She pointed out that the CPT’s functions will be distinctly different from the CAC’s investigative and administrative authority, while assuring that, should the need arise, consumers can seek redress in a court, should they deem the CPT’s ruling unsatisfactory.
“All of this is in keeping with the Ministry’s mandate to promote and protect the rights of the Jamaican consumer. We remain committed, therefore, to implementing programmes and strategies to increase consumer confidence in the business environment and in the legislative framework, as we continue to protect the rights and improve the welfare of Jamaican consumers,” the State Minister assured.
These, she outlined, include: regularly reviewing and modernizing consumer protection laws; ensuring effective redress for aggrieved consumers; and empowering citizens to become more informed and responsible consumers through better information and more education.
The seven-member Consumer Protection Tribunal, consisting of four women and three men, is chaired by retired Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), and current Professor of Law at the University of Technology (UTech), Kent Pantry, Q.C.
Its members, who were appointed by Industry, Investment and Commerce Minister, Hon. Anthony Hylton, comprise representatives who are qualified, knowledgeable, and experienced in the areas of law, economics, consumer affairs, telecommunications, information technology, business, accounting, and public administration.
Wednesday’s workshop, held under the theme: ‘The CPA and You: Balancing Business Responsibility and Consumer Protection’, was attended by a wide cross section of private and public sector representatives, drawn from finance and banking, law, utilities, as well as non-governmental organizations (NGOs).