Wed | Nov 30, 2022

CAC, stakeholders finalise new consumer protection policy

Published:Thursday | September 29, 2022 | 12:08 AMAinsworth Morris/Staff Reporter

JAMAICA IS on the verge of implementing a new National Consumer Protection and Welfare Policy, which will better empower consumers to make informed choices.

On Tuesday, representatives of the Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC), the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce, along with stakeholders met online for a virtual consultation workshop with two overseas consultants, John Lawrence and Beth Baker, to review the information that will be used to a nine-month research and planning period for the policy, which started in January.

Dolsie Allen, CEO of the CAC, said the goal of the workshop is to assess whether the new policy is relevant and looking out for consumers' interest.

Michelle Parkins, chief technical officer in the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce, said the policy is late, but is still relevant.

“It is a delayed journey, but it has, in fact, been a critical journey… which began as far back as 2015. In 2015, the ministry with portfolio responsibility for consumer protection recommended the development of this policy and included it as a strategy in our Vision 2030 Jamaica national development plan,” Parkins remarked.

She said that the new consumer policy was to be implemented in March 2018, but approval for its development was not given until May 2018 by Cabinet.

A steering committee was established in 2019 and the first meeting was held in February of that year. The CAC then sought funding for the cost of developing the policy from the Foundation for Competitiveness and Growth.

With just nine months before its implementation, the workshop was organised to outline and review the research, findings and recommendations.

State Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce Dr Norman Dunn said the deliberations on the draft National Consumer Protection and Welfare Policy and implementation plan represent a critical component of the Government's guidelines for developing national policies, which is to ensure that people are placed at the centre of decision-making.

“It also underscores this ministry's commitment to dialogue and inclusivity. We, therefore, invite your participation towards a sound national policy that will enhance Jamaica's tandem as a global business destination,” Dunn said to persons gathered both in-person and online for the consultation workshop.

He said that the Government of Jamaica has always been a forerunner in the development and adoption of policies that seek to promote consumer safety and well-being. He also noted that Jamaica was among the first signatures for the United Nation's Guidelines for Consumer Protection 2015 and the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas 2001 that articulates provision for international cooperation and consumer safety.

“In a modern economy, it is vital that consumers have access to accurate and unbiased information about the products and services that they purchase,” Dunn said.

Although Jamaica is ranked first in the Caribbean and sixth in Latin America with respect to the ease of doing business, the new consumer protection policy has the goal of inspiring confidence, innovation, stronger investments and economic growth. But Dunn said that there is more work to be done.

“The Consumer Affairs Commission and Welfare Policy and Implementation Plan had the potential to be a game-changer for Jamaica… When we look also at the large number of agencies engaged in consumer protection activities in Jamaica, it is clear that there is much work to do done in making our public service a lot more efficient,” he said.

“For our part, we're looking at the landscape of agencies and departments in our ministry, to see to what extent efforts can be made to limit effort duplication while increasing output,” the state minister continued.

At the end of the meeting, the team of experts and stakeholders reviewed and validated the vision, mission, goals, policies, strategies, activities and performance indicators that are outlined in the policy implementation plan.

ainsworth.morris@gleanerjm.com