The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Commission in collaboration with the University of the West Indies Centre for Professional Development and Lifelong Learning (UWI – CPDLL), as part of the OECS – EU RIGHT Programme, successfully trained 35 consumer affairs professionals across the 7 OECS Protocol Member States.
The training was administered from January 17 – 28, 2022, through a virtual short course ‘The New Era of Consumer Protection 2019 and Beyond’ and saw participants from Antigua and Barbuda; the Commonwealth of Dominica; Grenada; Montserrat; St. Kitts and Nevis and; Saint Lucia; St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Consumer Affairs professionals had the opportunity to share experiences in line with the subject matter on consumer protection and learn from the experiences of all the Protocol Member States and Barbados through simulation exercises.
Participants were able to submit group projects that made key recommendations for consumer education to engage stakeholders and to develop solutions for addressing pertinent consumer protection issues in various sectors in the OECS region. This also included the preparation of an action plan to deploy the recommended solutions and consumer education activities.
Course Lecturer, Ayanna Young-Marshall, expressed her elation about the success of the two-week consumer protection course. “It has exceeded our expectations. There was never a moment when there was not active engagement. As a result of that, we have come up with many suggestions and recommendations on how to build out consumer protection in the region. During the course we identified common areas that affect consumers on a country level in different sectors like telecommunications, the airline industry, reconditioned vehicles, and tourism among others. We looked at the need to strengthen advocacy groups and establish groups where there are currently none. We have established a consumer protection network for this course so we can move forward together.”
Xyanea Thomas, Standards Inspector at the Saint Vincent and the Grenadines’ Bureau of Standards, said “I did not choose this course. This course chose me and I am so happy that it did. I have seen my fair share of consumer complaints and I am now confident enough to say that I can handle any of them because of the information that I gathered from this training.”
Kamran Cabey, Trade and Quality Infrastructure Officer in Montserrat’s Trade Division shared his experience as a participant.
“I would advise other persons to engage in similar training because we are all consumers in some way, shape or form.”
Jacqueline Emmanuel-Flood, Director of the Economic Affairs and Regional Integration Unit at the OECS Commission, reminded participants that consumer protection is not as far divorced from everyday living as some think.
“We are consumers. We are talking about our OECS economy. The course ended on such an exciting note. It seemed like you are infused and empowered to make the relevant changes needed for the consumer protection sphere in the region. In the realm of economics, we talk about the big businesses and the profit-making machines but as we have seen in recent years, business is the driver of growth, but you the consumer protection professionals find yourself as the protectors of our region’s consumers. It is a noble and complex task. You have to ensure that while you facilitate growth and development in-country, our people are not taken advantage of.”
The OECS Commission is confident that the consumer affairs professionals are leaving this capacity building exercise well-equipped to deal with the new realities of consumer protection in their individual Member States and by extension in the Eastern Caribbean Economic Union (ECEU).
Having built human resource capacities across the 7 Protocol Member States through this virtual short course, the OECS Commission will continue to press ahead with providing continued support to the Member States in their enactment of model consumer protection legislation; support for public advocacy and consumer education initiatives and build the necessary ICT solutions to help improve the quality of service issued by the Consumer Affairs Departments. This capacity building exercise coupled with these upcoming initiatives will surely improve the state of play for Consumer Protection in the ECEU through a comprehensive approach and inclusive structures. – Alisha Ally