Consumer Affairs Minister – Timothy Harris
Basseterre, St. Kitts – Nevis
March 24, 2011 (SKNIS)
Government’s Senior Minister and Minister responsible for Consumer Affairs, Honourable Dr. Timothy Harris said that while he is pleased with the increased awareness surrounding local activities for World Consumer Rights Day, more must be done in a sustained way to empower the public.
“We still have a road to travel and that will come as we do more [public] events,” he explained, during comments aired on this week’s edition of SKNIS’ radio magazine Perspectives. Minister Harris said that activities held last week, including visits to schools and manufacturing companies as well as a financial expo in Independence Square, were geared towards the important task of consumer education.
“It was one of the reasons why I had recommended that instead of having a day celebration [on March 15], let us look at a week and maybe next year we look at a month,” he emphasized.
The Senior Minister also called on the general public to “make special efforts by reading the [law] Acts, by listening to programmes, by asking questions about issues that relates to their rights, pricing and the offerings of competitors.”
Local firms have also been encouraged to do more to offer better service to customers. One targeted area of interest is utility providers.
“Are consumers being treated fairly with respect to “¦ electricity and water? Are consumers being treated fairly vis-a-vis telephone providers and the frequency with which their calls drop?” the Minister Harris questioned, adding that he has asked the National Telecommunications Regulatory Committee (NTRC) to review existing quality provisions for such service in light of consumer protection issues.
In addressing the Electricity Department, he stressed that there should be “measurable indicators” to gather a “consumer satisfaction perspective.”
“I think it will be good “¦ for the Electricity Department to begin to engage the public in terms of what differences there are in improvements and quality assurances, they are doing, which will redound to the benefit of the consumer,” he again stressed, while suggesting each local company establish a consumer charter that is known publicly and is insisted upon by management.
Before concluding the interview, Senior Minister Harris stated that the Government will revisit the idea of formulating a Consumer Affairs Tribunal that will deal with related issues in the marketplace and provide solutions.