Basseterre, St. Kitts, March 18, 2016 (SKNIS): Vincent Fough, Consumer Affairs Officer, in the Department of Consumer Affairs, said that there are various ways in which the department brings awareness to consumers where their rights and responsibilities are concerned.
Speaking on the Government’s weekly radio and television programme “Working for You” on Wednesday, March 16, Mr. Fough said a common medium involves schools.
“What we do is utilize a lot of the schools and do presentations and that is one of the reasons why this year we introduced the Consumer Affairs Primary Schools Quiz,” said the consumer affairs officer. “We also say that even though students are children and are not directly employees and being paid, they are the most effective consumers.”
He added that the department also hosts various awareness programmes on radio stations in order to educate and empower consumers. The department introduced a call-in programme which involves asking questions. Callers to the programme were given an opportunity to provide answers. “That we figure would have been an avenue where consumers also get the knowledge of how they as a consumer can navigate in the marketplace,” said Fough.
The consumer affairs officer briefly listed the eight rights of a consumer which President John F. Kennedy presented in a speech to the United States Congress in 1962.
“Consumers have the right to truthful and honest information about goods and services which are purchased,” he said, while noting that when purchasing goods or services, the supplier or business owner should be providing honest and truthful information on that product. “You have the right to choose between products of different qualities and prices. At no time if you go into a business place and if you see something you do not want, do not let any sales person force it on you. If you cannot afford it leave it.”
Fough stated that consumers have the right to safe goods and services bought and the right to be heard, to complain to a retailer if one is dissatisfied about a product or service. He urged consumers to try as much as possible to complain in a polite manner if the need arises. Consumers also have the right to redress which means the right to fair settlement of just claim. This includes the right to receive compensation for misrepresentation, inferior goods or unsatisfactory services.
He added that they also have the right to consumer education, which is the right to acquire the knowledge and skills to be informed and to be an assertive consumer; the right to a healthy and sustainable environment, an environment that would enhance the quality of life; and the right to satisfaction of basic needs to have the access to basic essential goods and services, adequate food, clothing, shelter, healthcare, education and sanitation.
Mr. Fough noted that the right to satisfaction of basic needs is a tough one because it “falls in line that the government has to make sure that as a consumer one of your right as to the satisfaction of basic needs is key.”
Vincent Fough touched on the responsibilities of the consumer and stated that consumers should take them seriously.
“As a consumer, you have the responsibility to protect yourself by shopping carefully and wisely,” said Fough. “You also have the responsibility to read and follow instructions because when a consumer falls into problems he or she blames the product item or the business place.
An important responsibility that was highlighted is for consumers to understand the term of the sale. Fough explained that it is important for any consumer to understand this, because it is good to know why items are on sale. He noted that consumers should ask questions because it will be beneficial to them and the business places.
Other responsibilities include the collection and saving of receipts; keeping informed about new products; carrying out transactions in a business-like manner; reporting of unfair treatment by a retailer or manufacturer; and getting guarantees in writing.
He noted that consumers are the largest to be affected but the least to be heard, and as such should know and understand their rights and responsibilities.