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World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD) is an awareness day observed on March 15. WCRD was first celebrated in 1983 and became an important annual occasion for mobilising citizen action and solidarity within the international consumer movement. It is an opportunity for promoting the basic rights of all consumers, demanding that those rights are respected and protected and protesting about the market abuses and social injustices which undermine them.
In a message to mark the occasion Minister of Trade, Industry and Investment Vasant Bharath announced plans for new consumer legislation and revision of the National Consumer Policy. Key aspects of the new legislation include:
• Establishment of a tribunal to provide accessible, affordable and efficient means of settling disputes between consumers and suppliers
• More responsibilities and tools for the director, Consumer Guidance, to promote compliance and enforcement
• Enhanced consumer’s self-help remedies to increase the likelihood of consumers being treated fairly, and
• Strengthening the transparency and accountability of the organisation responsible for Consumer Affairs
Bharath said the Consumer Affairs Division (CAD) has been provided with the resources to prepare for an increased demand on services expected from its intensified education and communications initiatives. He said staff will be actively engaging international organisations including Consumer International and consumer organisations in Canada, USA and Australia.
“The drive to make the Consumer Affairs Division the sentinel of consumer protection in Trinidad and Tobago is relentless and there is a need for continuous vigilance. Consumer protection is everybody’s business and we intend to put the power on your side,” the minister said.
WCRD marks the definition of consumer rights, as outlined by US president John F Kennedy, the first world leader to set out a vision of consumer rights. Kennedy also recognised the importance of consumers as a group and gave the American consumer four basic rights: the right to safety, to choose, to information and to be heard. The day is organised by Consumers International (CI), a world federation of consumer groups that serves as the only independent and authoritative global voice for consumers.
It was founded in 1960 and currently it has more than 220 member organisations in 115 countries around the world. To mark WCRD 2014, CI has launched a new Consumer Agenda for Fair Mobile Services. The agenda sets out the issues that most effect consumers including the need for access to a reliable service, the security of their data and fair contracts and billing.
In April CI will present the Consumer Agenda to the World Telecommunications Development Conference, held by the International Telecommunications Union, where it will be calling on phone regulators and companies to take action to stop issues undermining the success of the new technology.