CAC head Dolsie Allen is urging consumers to be more vigilant when shopping and encourages them to use the CAC surveys to compare prices before purchasing.
Dolsie Allen, head of the Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC), indicates that the agency has increased market surveillance, more so as prices continue to climb.
The consumer agency has been checking for price gouging, but the agency is also advising consumers to watch their spending and to live within a budget.
It also recommends the use of its shopping app, which allows consumers to search for the cheapest prices and the outlets that carry these goods.
Allen, at a press update on Thursday, said that, as at January 31, 2022, the CAC market surveillance target activities had already surpassed 2021's by 54 per cent.
Among the activities undertaken are monthly and annual price surveys on grocery, agricultural and petroleum products, hardware items, and school textbooks.
Since March 2020, when the first case of the novel coronavirus was officially recognised in Jamaica, the CAC also increased its surveillance to include sanitation, hygiene, and personal protective items; COVID-19 antigen and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests; and during the first term of the 2020/2021 academic year, computer items, such as laptops and tablets.
Meanwhile, the CAC has increased its consumer education to advise consumers of actions they can take to 'stretch' their disposable income, Allen said.
Among them is the CAC's, Eating Right When Money Tight campaign, which also offers a budget-friendly booklet of recipes, available electronically on the CAC website.
The website also carries COVID-19 lab test prices and locations. The agency has also pursued a Money Management in a Pandemic media campaign.
Allen reported that complaints resolution had led to payments to consumers of $23.37 million, excluding tribunal awards of $7.6 million.
The total number of complaints for the fiscal year to date numbered 1,431 and the total number of complaints resolved were 911 — a 63.66 per cent resolution rate.
Refunds or compensation on behalf of aggrieved consumers totalled $15,774,361.88. The top three complaint categories related to Electrical Equipment & Appliances, 29.18 per cent; Utilities, 16.92 per cent, and Other Services, 13.69 per cent.
The top three refund/compensation categories/value were Electrical Equipment & Appliances, $5, 837,371.53; Motor Vehicle & Parts, $4, 293,800.00; and Furniture, $1, 410,904.00.
In an update on the CAC's bad gas investigation, Allen said that, as of January 2022, a total of $24.133 million was paid out to 323 consumers for 342 of 381 claims.
The CAC, on May 22, 2020, informed consumers who had been affected by bad gas and had successfully made a claim, that they would be able to collect a one-off ex-gratia payment.
Petrojam Ethanol Limited (PEL) transferred $24.5 million to the CAC on May 14, 2020 for disbursement to consumers who were affected.
Allen disclosed that its Consumer Protection Tribunal (CPT) adjudicated a case on behalf of a consumer and awarded the consumer an amount of $7.6 million, the largest-ever compensation granted by the CPT.
The award was made as a result of the consumer entering into a contract with a used car dealership to purchase a vehicle for the sum of $5.4 million.
Numerous issues occurred after the purchase, which led the consumer to seek the assessment services of a motor loss adjusting and motor appraisal company and placed the matter before the CPT. The ruling of the tribunal was given on October 22, 2021. Identified breaches of the Consumer Protection Act were damaged goods sold to consumers, return of defective goods, and false or misleading representation.
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