On a relentless drive to ensure consumers become aware of their rights, and also to adequately deal with consumer complaints, the Consumer Affairs Unit (CAU) has staged several awareness inspections/exercises countrywide.
Reports reaching this publication from the CAU, indicate that the entity has recorded more than $91 M direct breaches of consumers legislation by businesses/manufactures in 2018.
Head of the Consumers Affairs Unit, Feyona Austin-Paul, noted that the market for goods and services in Guyana is undergoing a rapid transformation due to the intensification of international trade and the rapid growth of ecommerce.
This, she said, has led to new distribution systems for goods and services, thus offering consumers tremendous new opportunities. Consequently, this has increased consumers’ vulnerability to new forms of unfair trade and unscrupulous business practices.
This is evident as complaints over the past four years have increased exponentially. Facts extracted from the CAU 2018 Report shows that when compared to 2015, there has been a substantial 158% increase in consumer complaints while the pecuniary value has more than tripled.
As a result, the Consumer Affairs Unit has undergone a profound revolution in order to combat this growing issue. The unit has moved away from the norm of primarily solving complaints to being a pioneer in consumer advocacy as well as sensitising suppliers of their duties through countrywide business inspections.
An Analysis of Performance in the Consumer Affairs Annual Report 2018 shows that for the financial year the Consumer Affairs Unit received 289 complaints with an aggregate monetary value of $91,868,324.
Complaints received increased by 22% when compared to 2017 while the value decreased by 25%. Of these complaints, 90% were product-based. The remaining 10% were service based.
In January 2018, thirty complaints were received with a monetary value of some $9,133,892, while in February of the said year the CAU received nineteen complaints with a cash value of $1,588,522. In March there were 20 complaints with a value of $14,772,597; in April there were 21 complaints for a value of some $17,457,745.
For May of the same year CAU recorded 22 complaints at $5,086,753, while in June there were 20 complaints at a $6,367,906 cash value. July saw 20 cases at $11,918,874, with August recordings 26 claims at$ 8,205,574
For September 2018, there were 26 reports with a value of $3,560,928, while in October there were 25 valued at $1,258,443.
Thirty Three cases were recorded in November at $6,352,733
December records showed 20 cases with a value of $6,164,357. This shows a record of 289 cases at a staggering cash value of $91,868,324
Furthermore, the monthly complaints received averaged 24. This according to CAU exceeded previous years– 19 complaints in 2017; 12 complaints in 2016 and nine complaints in 2015.
The Consumer Affairs Unit (CAU) has undertaken a regulatory framework which is led by facts based on technical evidence and outcome focused. This incorporates the utilization of data and information based on complaints, research and analysis and field work assessment; in order to better evaluate contravention trends, thus allowing the development of outcome focus strategies and programs in the sphere of consumer protection.
In other words, the unit has integrated a system where information about contraventions, complaints trends, and specific groups of offenders is analyzed and then paired with executive strategies. This is to appropriately direct actions and resources for the purpose of creating an impact of compliance by reducing, eliminating, and preventing contraventions of the Consumer Affairs Act
As dictated by CAU, administering and enforcing the Consumer Affairs Act has taken shape in many dynamics, with the addition of countrywide business compliance inspections in 2018.The challenges faced especially non-compliance by suppliers, have caused the remodeling of their modus operandi resulting in a more proactive, and results driven approach.
The Consumer Affairs Unit Consumer Protection forms part of the Treaty Provisions of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas which saw the development of the Consumer Affairs Act of Guyana (Act No.13 of 2011). The Consumer Affairs Unit (CAU) of the Competition and Consumer Affairs Commission is charged with the Legal mandate of administering and enforcing the Consumer Affairs Act (CAA) with purview of durable goods and services. The Consumer Affairs Act protects consumers from being unfairly treated by businesses and also provides a legal framework by which businesses can utilise to operate.
The Unit, in its effort to bring the business community into compliance, inclusive of enforcement of the CAA, incorporates awareness methods that advocates the importance of building a viable consumer–supplier relationship predicated on the theme “value for money”..
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