Consumer Commission receives complaints about goods, services worth $119M
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Minister of Tourism Industry and Commerce, Oneidge Walrond
Minister of Tourism Industry and Commerce, Oneidge Walrond

— in first half of the year; 206 of 269 cases resolved

DURING the first half of 2021, the Competition and Consumer Affairs Commission (CCAC) has received a total of 269 complaints on goods and services which have an accumulated value of $119,942,369, according to a published notice.

The Commission, in reviewing and analysing its operations from January to June 2021, found that the aforementioned figures represent a 180 per cent increase when compared to the same period last year.

In executing its functions, the CCAC said that it was able to resolve at least 206 of the complaints it received; this reflects a resolution rate of 77 per cent during the first half of the year.
According to the Commission, the total value of the resolved complaints stood at $55,570,437.

The CCAC indicated that, currently, 69 of its cases are still being handled; this represents 22 per cent of all the complaints it has received during the first half of the year.
“Areas of infringement or contravention were the sale of defective goods, which accounted for 50 per cent of the complaints received,” the CCAC said.

It highlighted that the categories of complaints saw the electrical/electronic services leading the list, followed by the auto industry, then the appliance and construction industry.

Added to that, the Commission said that did during the period under review, it was able to conduct inspection exercises of 47 businesses between Georgetown and New Amsterdam areas.
“Twelve of those businesses were in compliance with the Consumer Affairs Act of 2011,” the CCAC said.

It outlined too that the 35 non-compliant businesses were given one month to conform to the Act, during which period they will be reinspected.

The woes of some consumers are being specifically addressed in the Hire Purchase Amendment Bill which was tabled in the National Assembly in February, by Minister of Tourism, Industry and Commerce, Oneidge Walrond, who believes that once enacted, the bill will transform the lives of the majority of Guyanese consumers who are unable to make cash purchases of items needed to improve their lives. The minister made specific reference to items such as washing machines and motorcars that are usually acquired through credit purchases, at great risks to buyers. “What we have found is because of lack of regulatory framework for these types of arrangements, common people are being taken advantage of,” Walrond posited.

PROTECTION TOOL
She explained previously that the Hire Purchase Bill will serve as a protection tool for buyers, against “onerous” and “unscrupulous” business establishments.
The minister gave an example of persons having their items repossessed, without notice, having almost completed payments for the item. “We have had hundreds of complaints of these hire purchase arrangements that have particularly disadvantaged the people,” Minister Walrond noted.

Once the new regulations are in place, Guyanese buyers will have the luxury of mending mistakes that come from impulse purchases, and guard against substandard items.

According to Minister Walrond, the bill provides for seven days of “cooling off period”, which would give buyers the opportunity to return an item that they have regretted buying. “The seller has to accept it back from you… we have all had buyers’ remorse… you take it home and then you realise, ‘oh, I really shouldn’t have done this’,” Minister Walrond reasoned.

She said too that once the bill is passed, it will mandate sellers to explain prices and procedures to buyers, whereas sellers would have to specifically declare cash prices for an item, along with the hire purchase cost of the same item.

ELIMINATING FINANCIAL JARGONS
This component of the bill, Walrond said, is geared at eliminating financial jargons that often see hire purchase prices being shrouded in secrecy. “If you don’t disclose [the prices], there will be criminal penalties,” the Commerce Minister said.

She noted, too, that while the bill serves as a protection tool for consumers, it will also bring major benefits to businesses throughout Guyana. The minister pointed to the fact that the advent of a proper framework would also encourage many more persons to make purchases via credit, as it will no longer be a mere risk.

Senior Minister in the Office of the President with responsibility for Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh had also emphasised the benefits of the landmark bill, which, he said, is an addition to government’s agenda to comprehensively modernise all areas of Guyana, including the financial and commerce sectors.

“Buying on credit is a staple aspect of life in most modern and advanced societies,” Minister Singh said. He noted that Guyana has many sellers who resort to conducting cash transactions, since there are often faced with concerns of unpredictability and lack of protection that come from entering hire purchase arrangements.

“As we become increasingly a more modern society, which is unavoidably going to be a society that is going to be characterised by modern ways of doing business, including doing business on credit and hire purchase, it is important that we have a sound and legal framework that will facilitate those transactions and encourage more people to do such transactions, but in a predictable environment,” Dr. Singh noted.

As Guyana continues its course to advancement, the Finance Minister believes that the potential for buying and selling on credit will inevitably increase dramatically. “Disposable incomes are going to be increasing; people are going to want to acquire these items [vehicles etc] for comfort,” Dr. Singh added.

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