My fellow Virgin Islanders; this is a wonderful moment not only for the Government led by Premier Honourable Andrew Fahie, but for the people of the Virgin Islands who for years have pleaded for Consumer Protection legislation.
I am tempted to sing that song -- “It’s been a long, long time coming, but change will come.” I won’t sing, but I will say that we are about to see changes to consumer matters in the near future.
At this time I don’t need to repeat what many of us already know or have said time and time before -- we need consumer protection to safeguard, and promote a healthy-level of trading within our Territory.
I believe we are all aware of some of the areas that can deal with swift adjusting and we also witnessed the dreadful price gouging that took place following the 2017 natural disasters.
These issues all reaffirm our collective belief that the implementation of such a critical piece of legislation will go a far way in strengthening and even triggering the evolution of commerce here in the Virgin Islands. I say commerce because this Act not only protects the consumers, but makes business better for the merchants or service providers as well.
As a Government, we campaigned on the promise that we will finally deliver this long-awaited legislation to the people of the Virgin Islands and you would recall our Premier mentioning that we made progress and some tweaks to the legislation literally weeks after our Government took office. In fact, by May 17th the Bill entitled, ‘Consumer Protection Act, 2019’ was on the Order of the Day of the House of Assembly for its introduction and first reading.
It is important to note that we have had a sitting of the House of Assembly since then, but the Bill was not put forward for its second and third readings because we promised that a Bill of such great importance as this one - will be properly discussed with the people of the Virgin Islands.
Therefore, I am pleased to announce that the dates have been scheduled and you will be learning more about the Bill at the following times.
- On Wednesday, July 10th, from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Tortola at the Eileene L. Parsons Auditorium at HLSCC;
- Thursday, July 11th, from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the Catholic Community Centre on Virgin Gorda;
- Sunday, July 14th, at 3:00 p.m. upstairs Foxy’s on Jost Van Dyke; and
- Monday, July 15th, at 10:00 a.m. at the Anegada Community Centre
And to specifically address the concerns and get input from the business community, we have scheduled two sessions:
- On Tuesday, July 9th from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at Maria’s by the Sea; and
- Thursday, July 11th, from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Village Cafe Conference Room in Virgin Gorda
Therefore, if you operate a business in our community we invite you to attend one of the two sessions.
Let me say here, that the objective of the proposed Consumer Protection Bill is not to tilt the scales to the disadvantage of anyone, but to create a fair environment for trade.
The proposed legislation also will create a Tribunal to hear and resolve disputes between consumers and suppliers of goods and services. Let me make it clear that the only persons who would be adversely affected by this consumer protection legislation are the few bad apples who, if not monitored, could spoil the whole bunch.
I cannot emphasize enough how long in coming this legislation is, and I must pause and follow in the steps of my Premier in thanking the previous Junior Ministers of Trade for the work that they have done to advance this legislation. But not only them, as this Bill has gone through many hands so I also wish to thank all those persons who contributed to this necessary document.
We do not claim that this legislation is absolutely perfect, but with sections that deal with complaints and investigations, consumer rights, duties of suppliers, unfair trade practices, unfair terms, and consumer safety, we believe that this document is a great start. As it is designed to create a balance between protecting the consumer, while at the same time providing safeguard measures to ensure that businesses are not subject to frivolous and fraudulent claims by customers.
Because of our Government’s desire to ensure that the bill is as thorough as possible and has a positive impact on trading here at home, it is important that we discuss this legislation - and all have a say in the various matters addressed; so that the final document will be something we all agree on and will all be proud of.
This is why I would like to extend a personal invitation to my fellow Virgin Islanders and residents to lend your voice to this process so that we can achieve a Consumer Protection legislation that is suitable for business practice and development, as well as protecting the rights of the consumer.
The Virgin Islands Government, of which I am a proud member, is committed to creating an environment where businesses can flourish, and essential to that environment are happy, satisfied customers.
Fellow Virgin Islanders, know that your government is actively exploring avenues for increasing economic activity through the development of new industries to supplement and support the existing revenue streams. In due course, the details of these initiatives will be revealed so that members of our commercial sectors can position themselves to capitalize on these new markets and opportunities.
On behalf of the Premier and my ministerial colleagues, I wish to take this opportunity to reaffirm our pledge to improve the quality of life of all our citizens and residents.
My continued prayer is for God to bless you and these beautiful Virgin Islands.