Good evening viewers! I am pleased to address you today, as St. Lucia joins the
rest of the world in observance of World Consumers Rights Day.
Consumers are the largest economic group anywhere in the world, and they make an
important contribution to social and economic development. Business, trade and
commerce cannot be successful if consumers are not in a position to utilize the
goods and services produced. The views, opinions, concerns and rights of
consumers must be considered at all levels of the economic and commercial
activity and at trade negotiations.
Government has embarked on a number of initiatives geared toward advancing
consumers’ welfare. Most recent has been the introduction of a Consumer
Protection Bill to the Cabinet of Ministers that will be transmitted to
Parliament for debate and approval. The purpose of the Bill is to provide the
promotion and protection of consumer interests in relation to the supply of
goods and services to ensure the protection of life, health and safety of the
consumer and others. The Bill also provides for the establishment of a Consumer
Protection Commission. The functions of the Commission will include the
conducting of investigations on behalf of consumers adversely affected in
relation to the sale of goods and provision of services in order to determine
whether they were sold or provided in contravention of the Act.
The Bill gives the Director of Consumer Affairs the power to publish, with the
approval of the Bureau of Standards, warning notices in newspapers relating to
product safety, products standards, product information and recall of goods.
The Consumer Protection Bill imposes obligations on vendors and providers in
relation to goods sold or services provided.
For example, a vendor or provider is under an obligation in reasonable
circumstances to provide information on the origin, price, care and other terms
of goods being sold. The vendor or provider is also under an obligation to
provide receipts and warranties. The Bill also prohibits a vendor or provider
from committing a number of offences that include misleading or deceptive
conduct, misleading the public as to the nature and other aspects of goods and
non-delivery of goods.
The proposed legislation was compiled after extensive consultation and debate
with consumers. The legislation was also developed using a CARICOM model law,
and it must be noted that St. Lucia is the first CARICOM Member State to move in
that direction. Other Member States will be expected to do the same in order to
fulfill the mandate of having harmonized consumer legislation in the CARICOM
Single Market and Economy (CSME).
Government believes that such important legislation must be fully discussed
before it becomes law.
In telecommunications at the regional level, the Governments of the Windward
Islands and St. Kitts and Nevis, spearheaded by Hon. Calixte George, have not
only broken the monopoly, but have established ECTEL as a regulator to supervise
the liberalization of this sector in a transparent and efficient manner so as to
allow fairness and justice for all and particularly the consumer.
This year’s theme for the observance of World Consumer Rights Day is “Corporate
Control of the Food Chain – the GM Link”. Recently, the mad cow disease
demonstrated to the world how unsafe practices could affect consumers, farmers
and the general public. Safety practices have to be observed throughout
production, processing and distribution of food, to instill consumer confidence
and ensure safety.
The debate on genetically engineered foods continues, and consumers are advised
to exercise caution since alternatives are available. While the world debates on
the positives and negatives of G.E.F, the Bureau of Standards is in the process
of establishing standards for a number of agricultural products. Consumers are
reminded that foods purchased in St. Lucia can be more easily monitored and
increased consumption will cause economic benefits for all.
The St. Lucia Bureau of Standards in collaboration with the St. Lucia Chamber of
Commerce have implemented the Import Monitoring Scheme aimed at ensuring only
the goods of acceptable standards are imported into St. Lucia. I want to again
thank the private sector for their support in this important venture.
Consumers must continue to educate and re-educate themselves on their rights and
privileges in all areas, and particularly in the financial sector. I am pleased
that certain local banks, on the insistence of our Prime Minister have reduced
interest rates to consumers on mortgage loans. However, the issue of bank
charges is still a cause of grave concern, and we await the results of the
inquiry to be undertaken by the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank.
Meanwhile, consumers must ensure that they acquaint themselves with all
conditions when entering into contracts with banks and other financial
institutions, and remember that they have the right to ask questions and shop
We live in trying times, and the world will never be what it was before.
Consumers are the first to feel the pain of change – you must be well informed
and exercise your choices wisely.
On behalf of the Government of St. Lucia, the Permanent Secretary, Director and
Staff of Department of Consumer Affairs, the President and Members of the
National Consumer Association – Happy Consumer Rights Day to all of you.
I thank you.