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The Government has implemented a project to prepare a consumer and welfare policy which, when completed, will empower consumers to make informed choices in the marketplace.
This was disclosed by Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Hon. Audley Shaw who said the policy, to be prepared by his Ministry, will also provide consumers with avenues for redress where necessary.
He was speaking at the opening of the virtual staging of the 19th Annual Shirley Playfair Lecture hosted by the Fair Trading Commission (FTC) on Wednesday (December 8).
Mr. Shaw noted that the formulation of this policy is part of key activities being undertaken by the government, as it “seeks to foster healthy competition and consumer protection in the marketplace, both of which are direct contributors to Jamaica’s attractiveness as a preferred destination for trade and investment”.
He noted that important to this thrust, is the critical body of work the FTC continues to undertake in the interest of the nation’s consumers.
The Minister, who also has responsibility for Agriculture and Fisheries, pointed out that in the past year, the FTC has investigated market access, pricing, and consumer choice for cooking gas and its impact on safety and the environment.
“They have also assessed the care home services sector to determine the state of the market and the welfare of this vulnerable consumer group. Additionally, the FTC has reviewed mergers and acquisitions in the insurance brokerage services and medical disposables market and has investigated conduct for online promotions and lotteries,” he said.
Minister Shaw noted that the findings from these activities are shared with the relevant government entities for any necessary action.
“This collaboration with governmental and non-governmental authorities such as the Broadcasting Commission, the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Commission, and the Office of Utilities Regulation, results in a robust examination of competition and consumer issues,” he said.
In addressing the merger of the FTC and the Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC), Mr. Shaw noted that both entities are collaborating with the Transformation Implementation Unit of the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service to ensure a single authority that will engender improved operational efficiencies and drive a highly productive relationship among consumers, businesses and the economy.
“The sad reality is that when companies forge ahead to increase profitability without due thought, consumers are harmed by low quality goods and deceptive practices. This merger will therefore be a key step as we seek to optimise consumer welfare and a transparent business environment,” he said.
The lecture, which was held under the theme: “Integrating Competition Law and Consumer Protection Law: Optimising Consumer Welfare,” was delivered by Professor of Law at Wayne State University and former member of the Competition Authority of Ireland and Director of its Mergers Division, Stephen Calkins.
During his presentation, Professor Calkins provided insight on the mergers he was involved with in Ireland and provided tips on how Jamaica can optimise consumer welfare efficiently and effectively when the FTC and CAC merge.
The Shirley Playfair Lecture series is the FTC’s annual public lecture, which focuses on competition law and policy.
The lecture was also to sensitise stakeholders involved in the merger between the FTC and the CAC.