Consumer watchdog the Fair Trading Commission (FTC) received slightly fewer complaints in the 2018-2019 financial year, when compared to the previous year, the FTC’s 2019 annual report has said.
Several businesses were found in contravention of the Consumer Protection Act (CPA), the report added.
The number of consumer queries in financial year 2018-2019 reduced slightly, as 1,626 consumers contacted the Commission seeking advice on likely breaches of the CPA
Of this number, 1,308 were telephone queries and 318 queries were from consumers visiting the commission.
For the 2017 to 2018 period there was a total of 1,634 queries of which 1,449 were walk-ins and 185 via calls.
FTC officers visited 131 stores to verify compliance with the requirements of the CPA, the report said.
Visits were made to shopping areas in Bridgetown and malls in St Michael, the FTC said, adding that eight of the stores visited were found to be in breach of the CPA due to the display of prohibited signs.
“The Commission required the offending signs to be removed and monitored these locations to confirm compliance with the CPA,” it said.
It also pointed out that standard form contracts, which are commonly used in commercial transactions between suppliers and consumers and which do not allow the consumer to negotiate the terms therein, were of concern “if they create a significant imbalance between the rights of the consumer and the supplier, resulting in the consumer suffering financial loss”.
“Seven contracts were examined for fairness based on the requirements of the CPA. The contracts contained 461 terms. Sixty–five terms were found to be in breach of the CPA. The Commission required the businesses to either delete or amend the offending terms. The Commission is in dialogue with those businesses that are yet to comply to have the offending terms brought into compliance with the CPA,” the report said.
During the review period, there was a reduction in the number of complaints against C&W to 29, compared to 31 the previous year. The FTC said 17 were resolved within the period.
The complaints against the Barbados Light & Power Company Ltd increased from 18 in the previous year to 37 during the period under review. And 28 were resolved.
There were 23 complaints against the Barbados Water Authority, of which 16 were resolved. The prior year there were a total of 18 complaints against the utility.
The FTC considered several allegations of potentially anticompetitive conduct, such as exclusive dealing, refusal to supply and agreements across various sectors including petroleum, financial services, agriculture, telecommunications, distribution and manufacturing.
The FTC said while 15 of these issues were resolved during the financial year, one remained under investigation.
The commission said as it enters its 19th year of existence, it would maintain strong public engagement and education, with special emphasis on businesses “as it has been recognised that members of this community are especially unaware about the legislative provisions related to fair competition, consumer protection and utility regulation”.
“Furthermore, active representation of consumers’ interests through enforcement action, when necessary, will continue to be integral to the Commission’s future activities,” it added.
Read our ePaper. Fast. Factual. Free.
Sign up and stay up to date with Barbados' FREE latest news.