CSME harmonising consumer protection rules
CSME is seeking to harmonise regional consumer protection laws in line with the Caricom CompetitionCommission Strategic Plan 2020-2022.

THE Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME) is working to narrow the consumer protection enforcement gap within the region.

To that end the CSME has offered a consultancy for the development of an online consumer protection training course.

In a release, the regional organisation said, “As CSME member states transition towards becoming free market economies, consumer demand will be integral to the process of allocating and distributing economic resources.”

The entity further highlighted that “Consumer spending is important to achieving the economic benefits of the CSME.”

The project is expected to improve current protection measure for online consumers through capacity-building. At its core is the development of an online consumer protection course on consumer protection law and policy.

“The Caricom Competition Commission (CCC) recognises the value and usefulness of the modules in terms of their technical content. However, academic instructions must be transformed into more practical instructional materials to increase their usability as training tools,” the CSME highlighted.

The project stems from the need to build capacity within the CSME on consumer protection law and policy. Integral to this is the development of an online consumer protection course comprising five training modules.

The CSME said the consultant is being engaged to develop an online consumer protection law and policy course for the Caribbean Community (Caricom). The online course is intended to build the capacity of consumer protection officials in the region and provide a sustainable mechanism for training for many years. The course will also enable the region to build a cadre of consumer protection officials in the region that approach consumer issues in a harmonised manner. In doing so, this is expected to strengthen the single market initiative of the CSME by providing consumers with confidence that deceptive business practices in any member state will be addressed in a consistent fashion by national consumer protection authorities.

In the European Union (EU), for example, there are established consumer laws to guide how businesses operate and how consumers are treated. The overarching EU legislation which speaks to the unfair business-to-consumer commercial practices in the internal market ('the UCPD') is based on the principle of full harmonisation. The EU noted that this is in order to remove internal market barriers and increase legal certainty for both consumers and businesses. It also establishes a uniform regulatory framework harmonising national rules.

The move by the CSME is a part of the Caricom Competition Commission's Strategic Plan 2020-2022. The plan focuses on monitoring anti-competitive practices of enterprises operating in the CSME and investigating and arbitrating cross-border disputes. It also involves keeping the Community Competition Policy under review and advise and make recommendations to COTED to enhance its effectiveness. There's also focus on promoting the establishment of institutions and the development and implementation of harmonised competition laws and practices by the member states to achieve uniformity in the administration of applicable rules.

The CSME said evaluation for the consultancy will be based on both competency and cost, noting that where submissions are similar in quality, preference will be given to contractors that are commonwealth citizens or entities registered in a commonwealth country. The total budget payable under the contract is £15,000 (including VAT and all costs).

BY ANDREW LAIDLEY Senior business reporter laidleya@jamaicaobserver.com

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