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CAC gets more powers to protect public

Balford Henry

Thursday, October 18, 2012    

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THE House of Representatives on Tuesday approved a Bill amending the Consumer Protection Act to strengthen the authority of the Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC) in resolving consumer disputes.

The Act, which was effected in 2005, provides for the promotion and protection of consumer interests, as well as the legal establishment of the Commission as a statutory body. But, following an extensive review, the Commission found that the Act needed revision to address important policy issues.

The Bill was drafted to amend the Act and widen its provisions to include keeping records, investigating breaches and instituting and carrying out legal proceedings.

In the event of the failure of the Commission’s mediation procedures, there is provision for the establishment of a Consumer Protection Tribunal to hear consumer-related matters and determine whether certain practices are in breach of the Act. The Tribunal will also be able to call and examine witnesses, examine documents, require any document submitted to it to be verified by affadavit, and make orders.

The amendments also provide for the strengthening of provisions regarding the advertising and display of prices; recovery of damages from breach of a warranty; make it clear that a provider should be allowed time to conduct certification of a complaint prior to the payment of refund, where there is a dispute; a wider definition of services to include “one-off transactions” between consumer and provider; and ensure consistency by identifying the Resident Magistrate’s Court as the applicable court, where necessary.

The Bill was piloted by Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce Anthony Hylton and the debate included contributions from Opposition spokesman Karl Samuda and several Government MPs.

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