- Chief Executive Officer of the Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC), Dolsie Allen, has said that the Consumer Protection Tribunal (CPT) is an effective forum for aggrieved consumers to seek redress.
- 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 is one of several provisions of the Consumer Protection (Amendment) Act, and is expected to significantly increase consumers’ confidence in the system of redress.
Chief Executive Officer of the Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC), Dolsie Allen, has said that the Consumer Protection Tribunal (CPT) is an effective forum for aggrieved consumers to seek redress.
Speaking with JIS News, the CEO pointed out that since the establishment of the tribunal over a year ago, consumers have been receiving more satisfactory redress for breaches of their rights. She noted that vendors or providers of goods and services are more co-operative in settling grievances to prevent cases from reaching the tribunal.
“We have had three issues to date that we prepared for the tribunal but we never had the hearing. Just the serving of the documents caused the persons to settle because they did not want to come to the tribunal…so we know that it can work, it has been working and we encourage persons, who have been having severe challenges, to utilise this medium,” the CAC head highlighted.
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.
“This (the tribunal) is really a quasi judicial forum for persons, who have issues and would have exhausted the CAC’s mediation process and was not able to get any form of favourable redress,” Mrs. Allen explained.
“If …we believe we have a strong case, then we move on to the tribunal to seek redress at the request of the consumer,” she noted.
The CPT is one of several provisions of the Consumer Protection (Amendment) Act, and is expected to significantly increase consumers’ confidence in the system of redress.
The members comprise representatives, who are qualified, knowledgeable, and experienced in the areas of law, economics, consumer affairs, telecommunications, information technology, business, accounting, and public administration.
Legal Officer at the CAC, Sasha-Gay Russell, informed that the body is able to make orders for refund and compensation or can ask for contracts to be varied if it is found that the terms of a contract are unfair.
“So, the tribunal is able to make binding decisions unless there is a point of law that is going to be separately reviewed at another stage,” Ms. Russell noted.
“It is an effective option and consumers should be aware that it is available and open to them if they do not want to seek redress through the regular court system,” she stressed.
Outlining the process of filing a complaint, Mrs. Allen advised that once the consumer has identified a challenge, he/she must act quickly to have the matter resolved.
“It is good to go back to the person that you dealt with initially and make your claim. If that is not reaching anywhere, then you ask for the manager, but you must have the receipt to make the claim and the item…and as long as the item was not damaged by you and it is not a situation where you just change your mind and do not want the item anymore, but there is a legitimate defect, then you ought to be compensated,” she indicated.
In resolving the matter, the vendor must decide whether the item will be repaired, refunded or exchanged. “So, you negotiate and try to work it out with them and if you are not getting through, then that is where the CAC comes in. You can either write, call, visit us or use the online facility,” she informed.
She said the CAC will require full details of the transaction in terms of how much was paid and the medium of payment. Contact is then made with the vendor and dialogue and negotiations take place to see how best the matter can be resolved.
“Once a complaint has been filed, if it is in writing, we acknowledge within
24 hours…we allot 10 working days in order to have the matter resolved but keep you abreast of the development while we have dialogue with the vendor,” Mrs. Allen said.
“There are some cases that require a third party intervention, for example the Bureau of Standards to do testing on a particular product…so in a case like this, it may take longer than the 10 days but two or three weeks instead…so in those cases, we have an extended period as it relates to the resolution of the case,” she highlighted.
She noted too that there can also be delays if the vendor or provider is not very co-operative or poses challenges.