State Minister in the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Hon. Sharon Ffolkes-Abrahams, has called on CARICOM member states to implement the Consumer Protection Model Law.
Mrs. Ffolkes-Abrahams said the legislation has been in the draft stage for “far too long.”
The Bill, which falls under Chapter eight of the Treaty of Chaguaramas, speaks to the need for the promotion and protection of consumer interests, in relation to the supply of goods.
It also addresses the provision of services to ensure the protection of life, health and safety of all consumers.
The State Minister was speaking during the opening of the 7th Consumer Affairs regional meeting held at the Knutsford Court hotel in New Kingston.
She said the legislation is also designed to include mechanisms such as the web-based, CARICOM Rapid Alert Exchange System for Information Exchange on Dangerous Goods (CARREX).
CARREX is part of a CARICOM Secretariat project, funded by the European Union under the 10th European Development Fund (EDF), and is intended to boost consumer protection and confidence, and to improve the quality of products entering and trading on the regional market.
Launched in 2012, the online consumer-protection warning system, allows both consumers and regulatory agencies in 15 states across the region to alert authorities to dangerous products on the market.
Consumers in any CARICOM country can alert their national contact point about a product which they have found to cause harm or poses a safety hazard by logging onto the website:www.carrex.caricom.org.
The goods cover a wide range of non-food product categories including toys, motor vehicles, jewellery and furniture.
The CARREX mechanism does not cover food safety, which is monitored by the Suriname-based Caribbean Agricultural Health and Food Safety Agency (CAHFSA).
However, Senior Legal Officer, CARICOM Secretariat, Gladys Young, said discussions are ongoing as to whether the system should also include the supervision of food items.
Ms. Young further noted that CARREX is extremely important to all CARICOM countries, with particular importance to the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME), “to ensure that we are able to prevent the importation of goods that are defective or harmful to the consumer.”
She said discussions are also ongoing to broaden the network through information sharing with the European Union’s (EU) Rapid Alert Exchange (RAPEX), to utilize that database to inform the region.
For her part, Representative, Organisation of American States (OAS) Office in Jamaica, Jeanelle van GlaanenWeygel, said the OAS welcomes the implementation of CARREX.
She said the system constitutes another engine through which consumer product safety can be included in the public policy agenda at both the national and regional levels.
Ms. van GlaanenWeygel also noted that discussions are ongoing for collaboration of the CARREX into the OAS Rapid Alert System for Exchange of Information (RAPEX) and Consumer Safety and Health Network (CSHN) for countries in the hemisphere.
The two-day forum is being held from April 24 to 25, under theme: “Advancement of the CARICOM Rapid Alert System”.
The meeting was convened by the CARICOM Secretariat and is being attended by representatives from the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ), and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).