Jun 01, 2019 News
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 e-commerce. This 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, according to Consumer Affairs Unit (CAU)’s Feyona Austin-Paul.
As stated by Paul, this is evident as complaints over the past four years have increased exponentially. She dictated 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.
For the financial year of 2018 alone, the Consumer Affairs Unit has received 289 complaints with an aggregate monetary value of $ 91,868,324, according to a report provided.
Complaints received increased by 22% when compared to 2017 while the value decreased by 25%. Of these complaints, 90% were product-based while the remaining 10% were service-based.
Furthermore, the monthly complaints received averaged 24 complaints. This exceeded previous years, which were recorded at 19 complaints in 2017, 12 complaints in 2016 and 9 complaints in 2015.
Mrs. Paul noted that the CAU has undertaken a regulatory framework, which is led by facts based on technical evidence and is outcome-focused. This she said, incorporates the utilisation 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 analysed 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.
She said their goal is to strategically position Guyana for takeoff in 2019; to be on par with more developed countries in the mould of consumer awareness and redressal. She advised that to a great extent this is already being achieved.
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.
Mrs. Paul noted that Consumer protection in Guyana is not only steadily becoming a culture, but also that the goal of their becoming a household name is being realised. She explained that the average Guyanese is aware that there is a consumer protection body in Guyana and they can have access to the services. Consumers are demanding their rights, evident in the increase in both complaints and inquiries that the Consumer Affairs Unit has received for the year 2018, according to Paul.
In highlighting the status of complaints received for 2018, she said that despite reflecting a percentage change of 5% when compared to 2017, a notable 79% of complaints received were resolved, equivalent to a value of $ 59,857,075. 17% of the complaints are ongoing, which is primarily due to the unwillingness of some suppliers to comply.
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