BVI News

Push for Consumer Protection Bill fueled by rising population, concerns after hurricanes

A section of Tortola. (BVI News photo)

The Premier Andrew Fahie-led government has said the rising population of the BVI and the inflation concerns stemming from the 2017 hurricanes were some key factors that fueled its push for the Consumer Protection Bill.

The draft bill which is being discussed throughout the territory is projected to return before the House of Assembly on July 23.

“The BVI has transcended to the point where we need these legislations in place. Our population was small at one point in time, and if something went wrong, you could have found Tom because you know where Tom is living,” Fahie said while addressing residents at the H Lavity Stoutt Community College on Wednesday.

“But now the population continues to increase significantly with a diverse population. So most persons don’t know each other like they used to and the protection of persons cannot be based on you know Tom’s mother, and she could discipline him. So now the time comes where legislation has to be put in place to police the businesses and the economy so that persons can have recourse and businesses can have recourse if things are not going correctly,” the Premier added.

Notably, according to Canadian firm Dillon Consulting, the British Virgin Islands is projected to see a population that will exceed 50,000 in the next 20 years.

Consumers to be protected from price gouging

Meanwhile, Senior Policy Analyst in the Premier’s Office Lizette George said the legislation will protect consumers from inflated prices.

“It (the bill) does not address price control. However, it addresses the fact that prices cannot be manipulated in any negative way,” she said.

She further explained: “Let’s say we have a disaster. What that would seek to do is give the minister the authority to put certain regulations in place in terms of ensuring that there is no price gouging. So it does not specifically say price gouging in the act. It only speaks to suppliers are prohibited from manipulating the prices.”

Expired goods

Consultant on Consumer Protection Alyesha de Cotou-Sammy said consumers will also be protected from distributors selling expired products.

She said: “The supplier has to ensure that it (goods) is up to mark. If it is expired, it is not up to mark and you do have recourse in that regard.”

She said consumers will have the right to return it to the store for an exchange, get a refund, among other things.

Sammy further mentioned that many other pieces of legislation will be coming on stream to work in tandem with the Consumer Protection Bill.

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19 Comments

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  1. E Scott says:

    Must be put in place but it would be sensible to assume the British (EU) consumer protection law and enforce it in the same way. starting from scratch will be expensive and take years to develop into a workable and enforceable practice the British law it tried and tested.

    As the law develops and BVI gets used to it, it can be changed where parts of the legislation do not suit island life.

    Do not look at US consumer law because generally US legislation is evolved from law suits and is generally bad law and expensive to enforce.

    Set up a trading standard office with the same structure of the UK with the same powers of prosecution.

    Implementing this Lew law will be a huge culture shock and it will be painful as the article points out “the I know and trust TOM”way has long been the way on BVI and has worked but this will remove the power to negotiate on a dispute.

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    • James says:

      @EScott: I totally agree with your comment. The EU has a very high standard when it co es to consumer protection and the BVI consumer will benefit from adopting EU consumer law .

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    • F Scott Fitz says:

      Well said brother. Would you like to draft the Whistleblower Legislation?
      When an individual turns in a corrupt elected official, how much coin should they receive? In some jurisdictions they receive half of the amount in question. And half of $7.2m is some serious money.

    • Rubber Duck says:

      That European goods are generally of a higher quality than US goods is often said to be because of the much tougher buyer protection and warranty requirements in Europe including the UK.

      Here the situation really is appalling.

      A well known retailer here refused to take back a $600 water pump that failed within one week. That would not be possible under European legislation that generally requires a 12 month warranty on all goods sold.

      Yes let’s use the British legislation and don’t let the rich families succeed trying to water it down.

  2. A Dead Moral Imperative. says:

    A “Consumer Protection Bill” that does not mandate, polices and ensures that foods, transportation and shelter are affordable to the greates populace, and where those cost are not commensurate with a price wage index, is not a protection bill, it is a piece of toilet paper with writing on it. It is used and discarded, but the necessity for cleansing remains a constant.

    As such, a piece of legislation enacted in a political setting, approved thereby and then shelved never to realize its needed intent in action, is similar to the toilet paper that is flushed.

    Without a doubt, ideas and ideals were written on paper, but the realities on the ground they were designed to confront and remedy never will change for the greater good.

    For examples, food . and life sustaining necessities weekly price hikes; the twenty to thirty year stagnant and slave wages; which permits the constant gouging, excessive profits, in turn create oceans of undue hardships, sufferings and needs caused thereby, will remain even after the toilet paper has done its first wiping.

    Therefore, unless and until a “Consumer Protection Bill” responds to, regulates and controls market pricing and greed forces, it is not a protection bill, it is but an exercise in futility masquerading as a device to protect the masses, but instead is a blindfold on the poor to benefit the business and rich.

    In truth, when legislation is constructed with ineffective unenforceable clauses, is enacted and does not do what it was crafted to do, it is rendered as the used toilet paper, useless.

    Henceforward, the pricing of goods and services in the BVI will never be regulated by government legislation, but by the conscience of the business people, and they are neither in possession thereof that commodity nor the will to gain and share reasonably.

    Look at the effects of non-regulated and out of control unconscienablel pricing by the major supermarket chain in this country. for example.

    Hence, this piece of legislation may do noting to change the conditions of the poor and sufferings, if history and business behaviors are any indications. As such, it is a flushed moral imperative.

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    • Lodger says:

      How do you know supermarkets are gouging their prices? It is a mistake to compare with the USVI or PR because the freight and duty rates are completely different and our smaller population means we cannot compete on bulk rates. Prices in general may be higher but it is more likely to be smaller and unscrupulous traders, usually locals, who ramp up prices.

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    • Rubber Duck says:

      People should not expect consumer legislation to set prices. That is not going to happen and every economy that tried that, failed. Supply and demand set pricing, the market.

      What consumer protection should do is make sellers liable for the quality of the goods they sell and give consumers rights in that regard. To ensure that trade licensing etc does not create and protect monopolies. And to make cartels, where suppliers collude to set prices , illegal.

      The BVI undoubtedly currently suffers from all of the above.

  3. Retired says:

    It appears to me that the population on Tortola is decreasing. Maybe the population on the sister islands is increasing. Either way the BVI population appears stagnant right now.

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  4. ah ha says:

    This will be good for steel and gasoline because the prices for these goes up very frequently

  5. St Elmo says:

    So, when we get whistleblower law? Lots of the people are gonna get filthy rich. That new law will create the largest redistribution of wealth in our history! Everyone who turns in the crooks is gonna be rich, rich, rich!

  6. @retired says:

    It look like you only staying inside your house. How can you say that Tortola is decreasing? I have to laugh. People can’t even turn in this place

  7. HighRent says:

    Is there any concern at all in this consumer protection bill for the exhorbitantly increased house rent since the Hurricane?
    It is becoming quite difficult to find a two bedroom for $1000.
    Average salaries in the BVI cannot comfortably pay these rents and sustain a meaningful life otherwise.

  8. Anonymous says:

    @ HighRent: The hopelessly greedy and money addicts just can’t get or have enough of the money drug to satisfy their cravins.

  9. Terrible says:

    @high rent, agreed totally , the people get more greedy more wicked after the hurricane. My God a one bedroom is more than $800. I thought people would have a little heart but I guess everyone hearts went in the freezer, I hope it don’t get freezer burn. 🤦🏽‍♀️

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    • Wow says:

      Ok then, instead of paying the rent amount they asking for, pay the mortgage amount, the insurance premiums, the real estate taxes and the repairs and maintenance. You think repairs and maintenance cheap? You want nice things but they costly man.

      As an alternative, if you have family consider consolidating – living together. Don’t live above your means.

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      • @Wow says:

        If you have a minimum of 4 one or two bedroom rented apartments you can pay all your bills by charging a reasonable amount for rent. Repairs and maintenance is not a monthly recurring expense. Tax is not that significant. Most landlords do not depend strictly on rent as a source of income so these are just poor and lame excuses.

        Some landlords took almost a year to fix up the homes after Irma but was charging full rent for most of the time tenants spent in damaged apartments. While the bank gave a grace period landlords were getting full rent monthly with no shame while their tenants had no power, no water, and plywood on every window and doors.

        Government failed their people because that should have never been allowed to happen. You couldn’t even withhold payment until the place was properly fixed because ironically it would have been possible for a tenant to be evicted from a badly damaged home with only cistern water that couldn’t be relied on because the water pump works on electricity and the whole island had no power.

        I hope VIP complete the landlord tenant act that NDP promised almost a decade ago. When I hear these high overpriced rent, these over $1000 for a one bedroom apartment I just sometimes wish someone would ask to see the place (hint hint) and when the landlord think they seal the deal they hit the landlord some gun butt all over their head.

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    • BVI says:

      @Terrible: Believe it or not, rental properties are investment properties and like other investments owners, most of whom have mortgages expect to get a return on their investment. I am sick of hearing people complain about Landlords charging high rent. People invest lots of money in their properties and they do so to attract a particular clientele who can actually afford to pay the rent and not complain. Which Landlord would like running behind tenants for rent money every month? Some tenants take people apartment fully knowing they can’t afford to pay for them and then you as the Lanlord have h**l to get them out of your property. That’s why I screen my tenants and I am not ashamed to say that I am not renting my apartments to those who I know will be unable to pay. Period

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