In its bid to promote and protect consumer interests in relation to supply of goods and services, the Competition and Consumer Affairs Commission (CCAC) will soon be staging a countrywide business inspection.
This is according to Head of Consumer Affairs Unit, Feyona Austin-Paul in an interview with this publication yesterday. She informed that because of the perils consumers sometimes face at the hand of suppliers, the venture was initiated to ensure that suppliers adhere to consumer laws as dictated by the Consumers Affairs Act # 13 of 2011, and the Competition and Fair Trading Act # 11 of 2006.
This newspaper was told that suppliers found guilty of deliberately breaking consumer laws can face fines from $20,000 to $1M, plus one year imprisonment.
A segment of this inspection was conducted last year in Regions 3, 4, 6 and 7, and all outstanding regions will be tackled this year, according to CCAC.
One of the areas to be targeted in the inspection is ‘Information to Customers’, which dictates that a consumer should be furnished with all the relevant information about a product or service before the purchase is made.
‘Measurement of Goods’ is another, and this dictates that the quantity of goods purported to be sold should correspond with weights and prices charged, and correct measuring devices should be used.
With regard to ‘Prices and Fees’, the CCAC will be ensuring that displayed prices and fees shall be current and shall state the amount of taxes and related charges separately from the cost of the goods and services.
In relation to receipts, the body will be looking to see that when a supplier sells goods/services to a customer, the supplier gives to the consumer a receipt setting out the purchase price and value added tax separately as paid by the consumer. The date of which the purchase was made will have to be stated, along with a description of the goods/services sold. The receipt should be legible for up to one year.
Warranties are also of vital importance and the inspection is geared at ensuring suppliers issue standard and explicit warranty in relation to goods sold or services provided.
Subjected to Section (6) of the Consumers Act, a manufacturers’ warranty will have to be attached to goods sold or goods provided.
With regard to the returning of goods, the inspection will be focused on enforcing that ‘return policies’ are in accordance with those of the Consumers Affairs Association (CAA). Consumers have up to seven (7) days to make the return (subject to CAA conditions), and suppliers can charge up to 10% as a restocking fee. The information printed on the warranty and receipt documents should reflect this also.
In relation to ‘Return of Defective Goods’, or unsatisfactory services, policies should be in accordance with those dictated by CAA, and should be correctly reflected on any warranty document.
Commenting on ‘Notices on Return of Goods’, Ms. Austin-Paul said that a supplier should not post notices stating that goods are not returnable, or that no refunds will be given for goods returned.
On ‘Law Away Purchase Sales’, she indicated that layaway purchase cancellations by the consumer entitle the supplier to retain 25% of the down payment. This would not apply to cases where the supplier cancels the agreement.
Officers of the Commission conducting the inspection exercise will be attired with proper identification. Businesses in compliance will be issued with a conformity document, while those not in compliance will receive a non-conformity document detailing areas breached and to be corrected. Procedures will be followed to ensure conformity and non-compliant businesses.
Businesses are urged to be in compliance with the provisions of the CAA, Part IV – ‘Duties of the Supplier’.
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