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A Digital World Consumers Can Trust

A Message from the National Consumers Association on the occasion of World Consumer Rights Day, March 15

WE are once again at another milestone in our drive to educate, support and provide direction to our fellow consumers with specific emphasis on the rights of consumers – as this will enable them to evaluate and determine how much trust they can place in the information gathering by digital providers locally, regionally and internationally and at the same time to evaluate, both individually and collectively, the comfort level they should have about the information gathered by these providers.

Simply put Consumers, by definition, include us all.

In today’s digital world, the consumers in St. Lucia depend on access to reliable, affordable and safe communication net work.

Our aim at the National Consumers Association (St. Lucia) Limited (NCA) is to make this a reality through an island wide campaign for a commencement date of our Consumer Bill/Act, holding industry players accountable for the treatment of consumers, and capacity building for our members – empowering them as activists for consumer rights and sensitizing the public as to their rights as consumers from a general perspective with the hope that these rights can be tailored to our technological age.

The end product is to build a digital community St. Lucians can trust! Trust implies that “I know that I am safe, the food I purchase is good to eat, my money is secured and the information I provided to others is secured.”

As consumers we should demand from our digital providers; privacy of our data, the best quality of service, transparency between consumers and the provider of services, a satisfactory level of interaction between the parties involved in the transaction, consumer satisfaction at all times and the easy accessibility to redress and fault reporting.

What are the rights of consumers?
Consumers have the right to be protected against the marketing of goods which are hazardous to life and health. Food additives and colours, dangerous toys, flammable items,fabrics, unsafe appliances are examples of such goods. Consumers are entitled to healthy and safe products.

Consumers had little protection in the world marketplace before the 1950s. On March 15, 1962, US President John F. Kennedy put forth the “Consumer Bill of Rights” to help consumers understand their rights and responsibilities. In 1985, eight basic consumer rights were adopted by the United Nations’ Assembly, which resulted in consumers having stronger consumer protection policies worldwide. March 15 is now declared as World Consumer Rights Day! Let us not let the efforts that was made all these years ago go in vain – get familiar with your rights as consumers.

What do your basic consumer rights do for you?
1. The right to choose. Within reason, consumers have the right to be assured that a selection of quality products and services is available for them to purchase at competitive prices. It means that a consumer should have the opportunity to select the goods or services that he or she wants to purchase.

2. The right to safety. Consumers have the right to expect protection from hazardous products and services purchased in the marketplace, particularly if used properly for their intended purpose. Consumers have protection from the sale and distribution of dangerous goods and services.

3. The right to be informed. Consumers have the right to receive adequate information about products on which to base buying decisions. Reliable sources exist to inform consumers about products or services.

4. The right to be heard and the right to voice. Consumers have the right to equal and fair consideration in government policy-making situations, as well as prompt treatment in administrative courts or legal communities. In other words, consumers have a right to complain when there are problems or concerns. They have the right to speak up, to be heard, and to expect positive results. Through this right, both business and government are expected to respond to consumers.

5. The right to redress or remedy. Consumers are afforded an opportunity to have a hearing to voice dissatisfaction such that a resolution is reached and the complaint is settled satisfactorily.

6. The right to environmental health. Consumers should be protected from the devastating effects of air, earth, and water pollution that may result from the performance of daily marketplace operations. Consumers have the right to live and work in an environment that does not threaten the well-being of present and future generations.

7. The right to service. Consumers may expect convenience, the right to be treated with respect, an appropriate response to their needs and problems, and good quality design and workmanship in a product. Additionally, consumers may expect a courteous manner while in a store or other establishment even if a purchase is not made. Service means access to essential goods and services to include adequate food, shelter, clothing, health care, education and sanitation basic needs that should be available to all consumers.

8. The right to consumer education. Consumers are extended the right to continuing consumer education that supports the benefits and enjoyment of other specific rights. Consumers have the right to some form of training and mastery of knowledge and skills needed to make informed decisions in the marketplace.

Some Basic things Consumers can look out for.

Technology is evolving and revolving each day so:
a) Consumers should ensure that contacts between themselves and the supplier are fair or perceive to be fair.
b) Advertising and sales practices are not misleading.
c) Consumer’s data and privacy are protected.
d) Complaint handling is focused and easy to use.
e) Be familiar with agencies that can provide redress like the Consumer Affair Department, the National Telecommunications Regulatory Communication and the National Consumers Association (St. Lucia) Inc.

In this digital age you are at risk with your credit card details, your phone number and your address to name a few. On the other hand the service providers are requiring greater access to your information, greater participation as to the type of information you should provide and they are more innovative.

So consumers continue to be aware of technological changes, get familiar with these changes in the shortest possible time and more importantly keep reminding yourselves as to your rights as consumers.

Let us all work towards “Building a Digital World Consumers can Trust” – one we all can trust.

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