Ensuring the effective implementation of the Consumer Affairs Act

Conceivably, the Consumer Affairs Act of 2011 can significantly address the relationship between sellers and buyers in the local commercial culture and there is every reason why presidential assent should be hastened and full and effective implementation realized at the earliest possible time.

The real significance of this piece of legislation is the role it can play in redressing the balance of power between buyers and sellers in a ‘market’ where the rights of buyers have been circumscribed by the disposition of sellers. Some of the concerns that attend the buyer/seller relationship have already been raised in a previous editorial and the purpose of this editorial is not to restate those concerns but to try to make a case for the speeding up of all of the various processes that will transform what, up to this time, is no more than a stack of paper, into laws with which people must comply and rights and privileges which others can enjoy.

When one examines the Act itself one immediately recognizes clauses therein the full and effective implementation of which would cause ordinary consumers to erupt in applause since those clauses have to do with what in effect has been a usurpation of their rights over a protracted period. Rights that have to do with things like the exchange of defective goods, refunds based on change of mind, the removal from shops of “Goods Not Returnable” signs and various other occurrences which they have been victim of.

Not everyone, not least ordinary consumers, are likely to seek out a copy of the Consumer Affairs Act 2011 and fewer still are likely to want to read it in its present form. The fact is, however, that the recently enacted piece of legislation contains information that is so critical to righting some of the wrongs that have been visited upon Guyanese consumers over the years that a strong case exists for the launch of a special multi-media public relations campaign that explains to consumers in a highly simplified way exactly what their over-the-counter rights are in their engagements with goods and service providers.

Consumer Affairs Minister Manniram Prashad is already on record as saying that a public education campaign will be launched in order to create an awareness of the various rights and obligations of goods and service providers and consumers under the new Act. It is no secret that official exercises of the type promised by the minister can sometimes take protracted periods to materialize. The truth of the matter is that apart from being particularly important a public exercise of this kind is logistically quite simple and can be implemented in a matter of a week or so.

And if, as appears to be the case, some interest groups, notably the Guyana Consumers Association, might not be altogether pleased with the content of the new legislation, that ought not to hold up its implementation since, frankly, a cursory glance at the document suggests that it contains much that can be useful if the authorities can get over its customary hurdle of enforcement. For a start and even without waiting for the start of the promised education programme we can begin by requesting that those odious “Goods Not Returnable” signs still hanging inside and outside a number of business premises be removed. At the same time it would do a world of good for Minister Prashad’s ministry, in conjunction with the various private sector bodies – the Private Sector Commission, the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and the Guyana Manufacturers and Services Association — to hold a ‘fan out’ exercise, not a Round Table at the Pegasus for members, but a genuine countrywide fan out exercise that seeks to make businesses more aware of the Consumer Affairs Act and its significance.
Full and effective implementation of this piece of legislation is far too important to be left to chance.

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