Basseterre, St. Kitts (SKNIS): St. Kitts and Nevis’ effort to reintroduce and eventually pass the CARICOM Consumer Protection Bill will significantly enhance the landscape for all buyers of goods and services, who stand to benefit from increased protection measures in the twin-island Federation and participating member states.
The Bill had its first reading in the St. Kitts and Nevis Parliament in August 2021, but there were no subsequent readings. The dissolution of Parliament on May 10, 2022, meant that the Bill would have to be reintroduced and debated in a new session of parliament. Minister of Consumer Affairs, the Right Honourable Dr. Denzil Douglas, said that the government intends to do so and pass the Bill in 2023.
On Wednesday’s (March 15, 2023) edition of the radio and television programme InFocus, Paul Queeley, Director of the Department of Consumer Affairs, said that the passage of the Bill will strengthen consumer protection.
“With this new legislation, it will be a big step from the one that we are using right now,” he said, noting that it will likely allow for citations to be issued by Consumer Affairs officials. “If we go into the supermarkets, and you don’t have your prices displayed, fines. If you have expired goods on your shelves, we can fine you. If it is a situation where you are totally in breach of the [Consumer Affairs] Act, and you don’t want to refund a customer their money for an item they purchased, we can fine you for that right there.”
The CARICOM Consumer Protection Bill will also aid in the growing trend of online shopping. The protection rules will extend to goods and services within CARICOM where the harmonized legislation is enacted. For instance, Mr. Queeley said that if someone from St. Kitts and Nevis purchases windows from another member state and it is discovered that the product is faulty when it arrives, there will be an avenue for redress.
“Since we are functioning under the same legislation, we would be able to contact the [Consumer] agency [overseas], wherever they purchased the windows and they can investigate the case on that end for us and bring a resolution to the situation,” stated Director Queeley.
The passage of the CARICOM Consumer Protection Bill will help the Federation to transition into the modern era of consumer protection.