Businesses could face legal action if they fail to comply with any ruling by the Trade Commission — a third-party body being created under the territory’s Consumer Protection legislation to settle trade disputes.
Premier Andrew Fahie gave that indication during a recent sitting in the House of Assembly.
The Premier explained that once satisfied that a complaint against a business has merit, the Commission can initiate an investigation into the matter.
“The consumer can also initiate an investigation on its own if it feels that the situation warrants it. If the supplier of the goods or services is found to be in breach of the Act, they will be so notified by the Commission which will issue directions on what the business must do to rectify the situation,” Premier Fahie said.
“If the company fails to comply with the directions, then the Commission can institute proceedings against the business before a tribunal or in the court,” added Fahie, who noted that decisions by the Commission can be appealed.
Persons aggrieved by any decision of the Commission can lodge an appeal before the tribunal within 30 days of the receipt of the decision.
He also noted that consumers who seek recompense against local businesses will have the choice of claiming damages either through the Commission or the court system.
However, the Premier made it clear that the consumer cannot pursue both options simultaneously.
“This raises a very important point for business owners to take note of,” the Premier stated. “But we all know that going through the court system can take time and cost money. The Consumer Protection Act will provide a faster and less costly option for resolving these disputes.”
Balance, no frivolous claims
Fahie, who is also the minister responsible for finance, also said the Act was constructed in a manner to strike a balance between consumers and businesses.
While not going into the specifics, he said the legislation has provisions to prevent abuse by consumers who may attempt to make frivolous or fraudulent claims towards businesses.
The Consumer Protection Bill is expected to have its third and final reading in the House on Wednesday, July 31.
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