Consumer protection: Recognising your rights
HAVE you ever purchased a fan to survive a hot summer day, only to reach home, plug it in and get no breeze? The Consumer Protection Act was enacted to safeguard the interests of the consumer to ensure a fair and just marketplace in Jamaica.
Who is a Consumer?
A consumer in relation to goods means any person who acquires or wishes to acquire goods for his own private use or consumption. In relation to services, facilities or accommodation, a consumer means any person who wishes to be provided with the services or facilities or any person who wishes to occupy the accommodation.
Your Rights as a Consumer
It is integral for consumers to stay informed of their rights. The rights of a consumer include:
Right to Information – Consumers have the right to be provided with all information concerning the goods being sold to them. This should be provided to the consumer either verbally or in writing.
Right to Proof of Purchase – Consumers have the right to be provided with a receipt for their purchase of goods or services. The receipt provided to the consumer should detail:
(i) The amount paid by the consumer;
(ii) The date on which the purchase is made;
(iii) A description of the goods or services sold;
(iv) Where applicable, the professional fee charged; and
(v) any other information as may be required.
This receipt is adequate proof of the purchase of the goods or services for the purposes of refunds.
Right to Warranties – Subject to the standard provisions of warranties, consumers have the right to be provided with explicit warranties in relation to the goods or services being provided. It should be noted that any warranty that is given by a manufacturer, whether local or foreign, attached to any goods or services sold in Jamaica, shall be extended to the provider in Jamaica who provided the good or services and therefore, will be deemed liable to the consumer, in relation to such warranty.
Implied warranties in the absence of explicit warranties apply to the sale of all used goods and to the repair of all goods. There must also be an implied warranty where the service provided is the repair or replacement of a defective good, and the repair or replacement will be carried out within a reasonable time.
Right to Redress – Consumers have the right to seek redress in certain circumstances. Where goods are sold to a consumer, which fail to provide the consumer the benefit or uninterrupted enjoyment for which it is intended, the provider is required to replace or repair the goods sold at no cost to the consumer in specified circumstances.
Similarly, where a consumer is encouraged to acquire goods by the provider’s declaration and description of the goods and it is then discovered by the consumer that these goods are defective, the consumer has the right to a refund or exchange in specified circumstances.
Unfair Business Practices
An integral component of our Consumer Protection Act is the prohibition of unfair business practices. Unfair business practices may take various forms, such as:
i. engaging in conduct that is misleading or deceptive or is likely to mislead or deceive;
ii. engaging in conduct that is likely to mislead the public as to the nature, manufacturing process, characteristics, etc, of the goods or services;
iii. making false or misleading representations in relation to the goods or services;
iv. advertising for supply at a specified price, goods or services which it does not intend to offer for supply.
v. engaging in unfair contracts such as by reference to any term of a contract or a notice given to persons generally, excluding or restricting liability for death or personal injury resulting from negligence.
Reporting to the Commission
The Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC) is the responsible authority for enforcing the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act.
In the event a consumer has been unsuccessful in raising a complaint to the relevant business provider, the consumer may approach the CAC to file a complaint in relation to alleged unfair business practices or a breach of your rights under the Consumer Protection Act. It is recommended that the consumer provide all relevant information and a detailed account of the issue in relation to the complaint.
Understanding your rights as a consumer and the remedies available to you is critical in ensuring you make informed decisions, seek redress when appropriate and assist in maintaining a fair and just economic marketplace in Jamaica. You can always consult an attorney for advice as to all remedies available to you, in the event you believe your consumer rights have been breached.
Rachel Poole is an Associate in the Commercial Department at Myers, Fletcher and Gordon. She may be contacted at email@example.com or through the firm’s website www.myersfletcher.com. This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.