Consumer Protection Highlighted as The Bahamas Recognizes World Consumer Rights Day

Scenes from the official opening of World Consumer Rights Week (BIS photos/Derek Smith)

Minister of Labour Senator the Hon. Dion Foulkes, officially opened World Consumer Rights Day celebrations during a ceremony and exhibition at the Mall at Marathon on Wednesday. The Bahamas is recognizing World Consumer Rights Day with activities from March 11 to March 15, 2019 to highlight what consumers want and need from a “connected” world and how important it is to put these things at heart of the development of digital products and services. Students representing primary schools, high schools and the Consumer Protection Commission (CPC) afterschool programme were among those in attendance at the event held in the Food Court Centre. Also in attendance was Cecilia Strachan, Permanent Secretary; William Pratt, Senior Undersecretary, representatives of various government agencies and stakeholders who are partnering with the Ministry of Labour.

The Royal Bahamas Police Force Pop Band provided entertainment. The theme for the event is “Trusted Smart Products”. The following organizations are featuring products and services as they participate in the exhibition which is on display until Friday: Security Systems International, Kraven Bahamas, Data Commission, Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority, BPL, Water and Sewerage, BTC, among others. Philip Beneby, Chairman, CPC, said the day provides an opportunity to demand that the rights of all consumers are respected and protected, and to protest against market abuses and social injustices which undermine those rights.

“We consider it very important to have a platform where organizations such as ours and experts dealing with consumer protection can collaborate, can meet, exchange views and share expertise,” said Mr. Beneby.“ This is what the Ministry has mandated that the three agencies comprising Consumer Affairs Unit (Price Control) Bahamas Bureau of Standards and Quality (BBSQ) and CPC to which I am Chairman, to create a cohesive approach to dealing with consumer protection in The Bahamas and we are doing just that.”

The Chairman said the strategic plan calls for the establishment of representative units in each island to ensure that all consumers are protected wherever they are. Minister Foulkes said it is the goal of the government through the introduction of e-government to eliminate the frustrating and tiring process of having to physically visit various government agencies, stand on long lines and provide the same information multiple times in order to start a business. He told those present that the process of digitizing and modernizing in government services has already begun and can now be done seamlessly online. He said the digital transformation is not exclusive to central government but is also reflected in similar ongoing developments in government and quasi-government agencies.

An example of this is the exploration of the introduction of smart meters, connected devices that communicate directly with the power company over a wireless or cellular network that will eventually eliminate the need to physically read meters. Regarding digital banking, Minister Foulkes said the economies in the Family Islands which are undermined due to the exit or lack of commercial banking services is a matter of grave concern to the government of The Bahamas especially as it relates to financial inclusion. “The Bahamas government has decided to take a proactive approach on behalf of the people of The Bahamas through The Central Bank. We are very much advanced with the development of a digital Bahamian dollar which will have significant implications for providing the digital solution for unbanked Bahamians and the development of a cashless society,” said Mr. Foulkes.

The smart phone is poised to play an integral and vital role in this national development. “As a part of the smart technology and alternative banking it is important for consumers, especially those in the Family Islands, if we are going to ask them to use smart phones to carry out essential tasks such as making payments, sending and receiving remittances, communications, accessing wages and other things. “We must ensure the affordability, safety and security of phones that connect to the internet. This is especially important for consumers who increasingly rely on them for essential services. “We must do all within our power to ensure and promote consumer trust in smart phones and the internet of things,” said Mr. Foulkes.

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