BUSINESS MONDAY: FTC seeking to protect consumers
THE major focus of the Fair Trading Commission (FTC) is to educate and protect Barbadian consumers, in addition to promoting fair competition.
And over the last year, the Commission has been able to save consumers who would have experienced breaches of the Consumer Protection Act significant sums of money.
This is according to Mrs. Tammy Bryan, Chairman of the FTC, during her welcome address on Friday night at their 15th Annual Lecture, held in collaboration with the CARICOM Competition Commission. The event took place at the Hilton Barbados Resort, Neehams Point, St. Michael.
Noting that the lecture was just one avenue employed by the Commission to educate the public, Mrs. Bryan stated, “[Last] week, the Division partnered with our parent Ministry – Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Commerce – in celebrating World Consumer Rights Day with appearances on a radio call-in programme and the television [show] Mornin’ Barbados. There was a public outreach in Heroes Square in the City. The Commission was able to disseminate valuable information to the public during these events.”
She added, “In the past year, the Commission continued to engage consumers via social media, public events, radio and television during the summer and Christmas seasons. These promotions reached approximately 22 000 consumers.
“Officers from the Commission’s three divisions – Consumer Protection, Utility Regulation and Fair Competition – as part of these activities, responded to queries and disseminated valuable information on issues such as deceptive conduct, which may mislead consumers, Standards of Service for regulated utilities and fair business practices,” she said.
Unfair clauses and enforcement action
Bryan pointed out that the Consumer Protection Division also continued to highlight issues such as the illegality of “No Exchange, No Refund” signs and the need for businesses to inform buyers about the terms and conditions of credit transactions.
“This year, the Commission undertook the review of the consumer contracts of the telecommunications industry and discovered a number of unfair clauses,” the Chairman revealed, stating that the FTC is working with these companies to ensure that the offending clauses are removed from their contracts.
She further pointed out that the FTC had to take enforcement action against a local company for a breach of the Consumer Protection Act. “The matter was resolved with the company giving an undertaking, one of the enforcement tools available to the Commission.”
Non-compliance concern and mergers
According to Mrs. Bryan, one of the main concerns of the Fair Competition Division is companies’ resistance to and non-compliance with the directives of the FTC.
While not revealing the company in question, she disclosed that in one instance, the Commission had to issue a summons to compel a service provider to comply with directions.
“Merger matters also remain a priority for the Commission, as it has commenced its review of the proposed Sagicor/Harmony General merger, and completed its review and approval of Parkland Corporation Inc.’s acquisition of 75 per cent of the shares in Sol Investment Limited, the parent company of Sol Barbados,” the FTC Chairman stated.