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Consumer Affairs Commission going after digital awareness

BY SANDRICE WHITE Sunday Observer writer

Saturday, March 18, 2017

The Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC) has embarked on developing digital awareness for consumers as a part of its World Consumer Rights Day 2017 celebration.

This year’s theme, "Empowering Consumers in the Digital Age", centred on a week of activities on the subject of technological security and its benefits.

At the official launch last Wednesday (World Consumer Rights Day) at CAC’s headquarters in New Kingston, numerous speakers from within the organisation and government agencies informed the audience about the challenges of cyber security, spiced with musical performances from the Ardenne High School choir as well as competitions and giveaways.

Chief Executive Officer of the CAC Dolsie Allen said that the reason for the focus on technology this year was due to the increase in technological use. She added that the CAC has been partnering with organisations such as the Office of Utilities Regulations, telecommunication companies such as FLOW and Digicel, among others, to see how they could further assist consumers.

Allen said that the CAC aims to educate and empower consumers advocating for their rights online, at ATMS, and other institutions.

Legislation, she stated, is lacking in Jamaica and the CAC’s next attempt is to fix that situation.

"We know that we are behind in terms of legislation; we have looked at the whole thing of the Cybercrime Act, the Data Protection Act ... those types of things. We have been making comments and recommendation for amendment as we see fit," Allen disclosed.

She said that the CAC is not certain where information that its offices distribute might end up and who has access to it, which leaves the organisation in a vulnerable position.

Chief Technical Director in the Ministry of Industry,pHOTOS: Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Stephen Wedderburn, who was representing portfolio minister Karl Samuda said that digital communication has made it easy for Jamaicans to access international markets and conduct cross border trade.

He also commented on the issue of regulating digital content.

"The Government is working so that regulation and laws governing e-commerce transactions are in place. We are not where we want to be but we are working on it. It is critical that interconnectivity standards are developed in the area of disclosure, digital siginiture, content regulation, privacy and encryption" said Wedderburn.

Wedderburn said that the Government is utilising digital technology to monitor consumer protection and dangerous products across the regions. He said that last month, 15 countries including Jamaica, participated in the Caribbean Community (Caricom) Rapid Alert Exchange System, which aimed to improve surveillance of consumer products.

The programme called PAREX, he said, once fully instituted, will boost the regional framework to response to potential threats. The programme objective is to alert countries about dangerous consumer products, so if one country is aware that dangerous goods are picked in one market, the information will be sent to other countries.

Jamaica, Wedderburn stated, has taken a hold of the rapid growth and advancement that is happening in the digital age, so consumer protection is necessary.

The ministry, he said, is pushing for companies to conduct particular business activities online, such as registering online instead of having to come into Government offices to conduct business. This, he said, will lead to a faster and more efficient service.