Over the last four years, the local Consumer Claims Tribunal has been kept busy, adjudicating a total of 173 cases at 133 sittings.

This was revealed today by the Registrar of the Consumer Claims Tribunal, Wayne Best, who pointed out that of the 173 cases heard during the period November 2003 to October 2007, some 129 had been resolved. Fifty one of those cases were heard this year.

He further disclosed that of the 129 cases resolved, 112 consumers had received redress in the form of cash awards, totalling some $170, 412.16, while 17 consumers had their products either repaired or services completed. According to Mr. Best, consumers should use the Tribunal as a last resort for seeking redress for claims under $10,000. 

“Where an individual has a complaint about a product or service, he must first take that complaint to the supplier. If the supplier fails to acknowledge or handle the complaint, a report should then be made to the Office of Public Counsel.  From there, the office mediates on your behalf, and if a settlement cannot be reached, then and only then is the case brought before the Tribunal to be heard,” he explained.

The Consumer Claims Tribunal was first introduced in November of 2003, under the Consumer Guarantees Act, and serves to protect the rights of consumers.

The most recent decision of the Tribunal was the case of consumer vs. a leading department store, which generated great interest in the business community, as it had implications for all businesses conducting hire purchase arrangements. 

That case dealt with the refund available to the consumer, under a hire purchase agreement, where a defective good was returned to the supplier.  The particular consumer won her case and claim, in the amount of some $3, 729.52.

The Registrar of the Consumer Claims Tribunal noted that the most complaints brought before the Tribunal during the period November 2003 to October 2007 were about house building and repairs, and motor vehicle purchases and repairs. 

Other complaints ranged from the purchase of an unhealthy dog, and failure of a restaurant to provide entertainment at a reasonable time, to a case of a cancelled credit card by a bank, where the client suffered great financial loss as a result.

Mr. Best who is also the Senior Legal Assistant, in the Department of Commerce at the Ministry of Commerce, Consumer Affairs and Business Development, is encouraging small businesses to be aware of their eight obligations under the Consumer Guarantees Act. Consumers are also encouraged to ‘know their rights’.

Copies of the Act can be obtained from the Government Printery, while information on the Tribunal can be viewed at www.commerce.gov.bb under the section, consumer claims tribunal.

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