The Government is seeking to amend the Consumer Protection Act (2005), which will among other things, give the Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC) wider powers to provide legal representation.
This was disclosed by State Minister for Industry, Investment and Commerce, Hon. Sharon Ffolkes-Abrahams, during her contribution to the 2012/13 Sectoral Debate yesterday (July 18) in the House of Representatives.
The State Minister explained that in its current form, the Commission may sue only on behalf of complainants falling within section 7(2) of the Act that is, where the complainant is a minor, or is unable to act for himself/herself due to death, or infirmity, or where the Commission is personally aggrieved.
"As such, the CAC has no locus standi (the right to bring an action, to be heard in court, or to address the court on a matter before it)to sue on behalf of members of the public at large. The proposed amendments seek to empower the agency to represent all categories of complainants, and allow enforcement proceedings in the public interest,” she explained.
Also proposed is the establishment of a tribunal, which would reduce the time that matters are handled by the formal court system.
Mrs. Ffolkes-Abrahamssaid the proposed amendments aim to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of the CAC in carrying out its work, and allow for broader punitive measures for breaches of the Act.
She noted that the CAC plays a critical role in areas such as market surveillance, consumer/business education, complaint resolution, and consumer protection and advocacy, noting that “in the environment that we live today, consumers would be at a serious disadvantage without the existence of the entity”.
She further noted that in dealing with consumer complaints, the Commission continues to achieve a high resolution rate, pointing out that during 2011/2012, a total of 1,960 complaints were handled, of which 1,739 or 87 per cent were resolved.
"The CAC also secured compensation/refunds amounting to $12, 973,942 on behalf of aggrieved consumers,” she informed.
By Alecia Smith-Edwards, JIS Reporter