A new report from the Law Reform Commission calls for new rules to protect consumers in the Cayman Islands.
Commission members, in a recent discussion paper, say there are consumer protections built into dozens of laws, but together they do not adequately protect people in the Cayman Islands.
Jose Griffith, senior legislative counsel for the Law Reform Commission, said, “There is a need for something holistic” to protect consumers. He said commissioners think new rules should give certainty for consumers about their rights, give people an accessible way to make complaints about unfair business practices, and make sure complaints can be resolved quickly.
While not official recommendations, the paper is meant to be a starting point for a debate on consumer protection rules that could eventually lead to a new consumer protection proposal for legislators.
Following a public consultation, the commissioners could bring formal recommendations to the Attorney General who could, in turn, propose new consumer protection laws to Cabinet.
“It’s critical to ask the public the big questions,” Mr. Griffith said. Those questions, he noted, include whether or not there is a problem with consumer protection and what are the best ways to address any possible issues.
The commission’s paper calls for a new consumer affairs agency to monitor and investigate unfair business practices and a “Consumer Tribunal” to help settle disputes and possibly award damages if a business is found to be in the wrong.
The commissioners write, “While compliance is best secured by the use of persuasion and negotiation techniques, it is now established legislative practice that these techniques have to be supported by a range of sanctions which can be applied or used depending upon the level of cooperation required.”
The paper notes, “For consumer protection legislation to be effective, it needs to protect both consumers and legitimate businesses in relation to quality guarantees, product safety and misleading or deceptive conduct.”
“If there is no deterrent, businesses are likely to breach consumer rights with impunity and this can adversely impact consumer confidence. Consumers who lack confidence, delay in entering into transactions or may choose not to purchase goods and services if it is perceived that the risks are too high. Consequently, this may have an adverse effect on competition, market efficiency and ultimately the economy,” the commissioners write.
A new consumer protection law, the commissioners say, should prohibit misrepresentation, misleading conduct, harassment and other bad conduct by businesses.
The legislation, the commissioners write, should make it a criminal offense to lie to or obstruct consumer protection investigators. For violating protection rules, the commission members propose businesses should face fines and other sanctions.
“Legislation is one crucial component of a strategy to increase consumer protection in the Islands. Equally, it is important to ensure that we have a system in place that can be both pro-active and responsive to consumer issues as they emerge,” the commissioners write.
They argue that new legislation should be flexible and able to change as technology and markets evolve. In their report, the law reform commissioners continue: “The overall objectives of new legislation should be to promote and advance the social and economic welfare of consumers by establishing a legal framework for the achievement and maintenance of a consumer market that is accessible, fair, efficient, responsible and sustainable for the benefit of consumers generally, and which provides adequate safeguards to vulnerable consumers.”
The paper is available on the commission website at www.lrc.gov.ky and the commissioners ask people to submit comments in writing to the Director of the Law Reform Commission at the Government Administration Building or [email protected]