Monday 20 May, 2019

Buy smart! Look out for the terms and conditions

MP Dwight Sutherland on one of his Bridgetown walkthroughs. (FILE)

MP Dwight Sutherland on one of his Bridgetown walkthroughs. (FILE)

MESSAGE FROM THE HONOURABLE DWIGHT G. SUTHERLAND M.P. MINISTER OF SMALL BUSINESS, ENTREPRENEURSHIP AND COMMERCE IN CELEBRATION OF WORLD CONSUMER RIGHTS DAY MARCH 15, 2019

 

Today, Barbados joins the international community to unite consumers around the world, in celebration of the thirty-sixth (36th) anniversary of World Consumer Rights Day.  

The theme for World Consumer Rights Day 2019 is ‘Trusted Smart Products’.  This year’s theme highlights products such as voice-assisted devices, smart phones, fitness trackers, smart TVs and other smart devices, which allow people to connect and interact with other users, other devices and the internet via different communication connections.  The universal proliferation of these products over the past decade and their rapid uptake, has profoundly altered the way consumers interact with products and services and as was reported by Consumers International, there are 23.1 billion smart products globally, outnumbering people 3 to 1.

According to a 2017 report by a consortium of international consumer bodies, the emergence of smart technology presents the consumer with a plethora of opportunities.  These include access to new services, more responsive products, greater convenience and choice. At the same time, consumers around the world also face issues relating to lack of access to technology by some populations; privacy issues; lack of security as well as being aware of who is responsible in the event that things go awry.

In Barbados, it is reported that most consumers utilize smart products as a standard means of communication to connect with loved ones and share information.  It has also been observed that Barbadian consumers are inclined to be more focused on acquiring the smart products and less vigilant about some of the terms and conditions that may apply to their acquisition.

Taking into consideration the desire to obtain this new technology, the incorporation and assimilation of smart technologies into the day-to-day lives of people as well as the opportunities and risks that are manifested by the new smart economy, the occasion to develop more robust consumer protection frameworks has arisen.  

This charge is being spearheaded by the Ministry of Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Commerce through its ancillary agencies.  Taking all relevant factors into account, the Ministry continues to ensure that an enabling environment where consumers can continue to exercise their rights and responsibilities is maintained.  At the same time, businesses and service providers are encouraged to ensure that consumers are provided with fair and simple contract terms and relevant information pertaining to the use and features of the smart products. This would allow the consumer to understand whether the item suits their particular requirements and ensure that even the most vulnerable consumers are able to make informed choices.  

Moreover, within the next few months, the Government of Barbados will be enacting Data Protection legislation with the view of leveraging new and appropriate technologies, which will facilitate business and enable efficiency and competitiveness and safeguard the privacy of individuals and businesses alike.

As we celebrate World Consumer Rights Day 2019 in the changing face of technology and regulation, I must implore consumers to be shrewd and responsible for their choices, businesses and service providers to be honourable and trustworthy in their practices and the staff of the Ministry to be stewards of men and women.

If we wish to make our today and tomorrows more fulfilling, we must think anew and act anew on this and any other issues before us.

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