In 2012 CARICOM launched an online consumer-protection warning system which allows 13 million consumers in 14 Member States to alert authorities on dangerous products which they detect in the market.
It is called the CARICOM Rapid Exchange System for Dangerous Non-food Consumer Goods, (CARREX) and was developed in response to concerns voiced by consumer bodies of the need to strengthen the Region’s market surveillance for unsafe consumer goods.The concerns stemmed from the perceived increased permeability of the regional market to unsafe consumer products, which were facing growing difficulties in entering neighbouring territories where market surveillance systems were more effective. Such perceptions are supported by the fact that most industrialized countries do not have limitations in their law on the re-exportation of dangerous goods outside their frontiers once these have been identified at their borders.
Mindful of the resource limitations of Member governments in establishing and operating adequate market surveillance systems, it was recognised that the system could also aid in preventing the importation of dangerous goods by stopping such imports at the borders, once they have been detected elsewhere in the Community. The involvement of Customs departments will therefore be critical in this regard and incorporates an added feature which is now being integrated in the EU’s RAPEX from which the CARREX stems.
National Contact Points have been created in Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, who are all participating in this regional system. The notification system covers non-food consumer products such as motor vehicles, electrical items, toys,pharmaceutical products and a range of others which more than 13 million consumers in these countries use annually.
CARREX operates through an online portal/webpage (http://carrex.caricom.org/) that allows consumers in any of the participating countries to alert their national contact point about a product, which they have detected, has caused harm or poses a safety hazard. Under the system, non-food and pharmaceutical products can be withdrawn from Caricom markets and action taken to ensure that regional and international manufacturers address consumer safety concerns.
On the website, consumers and consumer organisations are advised that the information they supply will be treated as confidential and used only to process their report, enforce national laws or CARICOM treaty provisions or identify areas for improving laws and regulations currently in force.
Arising from a predecessor project which prepared, inter alia, a product safety policy, the recommendation to craft a rapid alert system for dangerous non-food items was made and adopted in July 2010 at a meeting of consumer representatives convened by the CARICOM Secretariat. CARREX was officially launched following decisions by the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) in May and November 2011. At the November 2011 meeting it was mandated that operation of this regional system commence on January 1, 2012. The system was officially operationalized on January 3, 2012.Leading up to its launch, 12 persons from participating countries’ national contact points were trained on the use of a secure system, which allows them to transmit notifications to each other through a regional secretariat located at the CARICOM Secretariat’s CSME Unit in Barbados.
CARREX is expected to be completely operational at the national and regional levels by the end of 2014. From 3–5 December 2014, representatives from national standards bureaux in CARICOM were trained at a Regional Workshop in Suriname on matters relating to the CARREX and consumer product safety. The workshop was facilitated by the CARICOM Secretariat in collaboration with the Organisation of American States (OAS). Participants focused on the study of risk assessment concepts and methods in order to enhance national interagency networking in creating and sharing information. There were sessions aimed at strengthening national capacities to detect unsafe products and to take timely measures to tackle the circulation of such products.
The training will enable CARICOM Member States to more effectively implement the CARREX system and market surveillance processes for non-food consumer goods. The intervention was funded with assistance under the Tenth European Development Fund (10th EDF) CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) and Economic Integration Programme (EIP)