FRIDAY, FEB. 17: There was a spike in complaints from customers in 2011.
A total of 657 compaints about poor goods or services were logged by the Department of Consumer Affairs in 2011 – 27 per cent up on the previous year.
Economy, Trade & Industry Minister Patrice Minors said the beauty industry, marine services and advertising had all shown “a marked increase” last year.
Ms Minors added: “There were also increased complaints with landlord/tenant issues, primarily dealing with leases, medical billing issues and the purchase of second-hand cars.”
Ms Minors said that 526 of the 2011 complaints had been successfully resolved, with an additional 211 inquiries where advice was given, but no formal complaint was made.
Ms Minors warned that cases showed that there were still some areas where consumers “continue to make the same mistakes.”
She said: “For example, signing quotes without understanding them, taking too long to deal with a situation when there is a problem and ‘helping a brother out’ by hiring friends, family or friends of friends without applying proper business acumen.
“Additionally, it is evident that businesses would benefit greatly by having a complaint management system in place in an attempt to resolve consumer issues.
“Consumer Affairs has been proactive in this area with local businesses, but there are many businesses that continue to avoid confrontations with customers in hopes that the problem will go away on its own.”
Ms Minors said that amendments to the 1999 Consumer Protection Act passed last year gave more protection to people buying goods or services and helped businesses to boost their quality of service.
She said that investigation had highlighted three main areas of unfair business practices:
- A lack of clarity surrounding the terms estimate, quote and price;
- Aggressive and abusive business practices that negatively affect consumers and;
- Requirement in payment in full for goods and services in advance.
Staff at the department also dealt with 311 product recall notices, with 13 of the products found to be on sale on the island.
Ms Minors said that she expected the upward trend in complaints to continue this year.
She added: “The Department of Consumer Affairs will continue its education campaigns targeting both consumers and traders.
“This office will step up enforcement procedures as deemed necessary and businesses that demonstrate a pattern of unfair business practices can expect a visit from the consumer affairs enforcement officers and if necessary they will be prosecuted.”
There were 12 complaints about advertising in 2011, up from two the year before, while marine services logged 16 complaints compared to two in 2010.
In addition, the beauty industry saw a total of 15 complaints compared to four in 2010.