GREATER EMPHASIS NEEDS TO BE PUT ON THE PROTECTION OF CONSUMER RIGHTS IN THE DIGITAL ERA, SAYS MINISTER GRANT

Basseterre, St. Kitts, March 11, 2019 (SKNIS): On March 15 2019, St Kitts and Nevis will join the international community in celebrating World Consumer Rights Day under the theme “Trusted Smart Products”. Minister with responsibility for Consumer Affairs said that this is an opportunity for consumers, businesses and a Government to impart greater emphasis on the need for the protection of consumer rights in this digital era.

During his remarks to commemorate the day, Minister Grant revealed that based on the most recent sector review undertaken in 2016 by ECTEL, “St Kitts and Nevis mobile broadband subscription totalled 43,000 (77% penetration rate) and approximately 23,000 fixed line subscriptions (40% penetration rate).”

“This data solidifies the fact that there is a large number of persons within the Federation who have access to the online shopping community and may engage in e-commerce,” said the minister. “These online shoppers are also exposed to internet fraud and identity theft.”

Minister Grant said that for this reason appropriate laws and regulations need to be drafted and enforced in order to protect citizens “who make use of e-commerce daily, in an effort to create a fairer and safer online shopping experience.”

The minister noted that within the CARICOM (Caribbean Community) and the OECS (Organization of Eastern Caribbean States) territories, “there continues to be positive strides being made towards the adoption of harmonized consumer protection legislation across all member states. In addition to this, assistance was solicited from Impact Justice, a national innovation research centre, to assist in the drafting of regulations which will support and operationalize this new harmonized legislation. “

Currently, there are only two CARICOM Member States that have adopted the newly drafted CARICOM Consumer Protection Bill, said the minister.

“However, the Government of St Kitts and Nevis (GSKN) remains committed to being in the vanguard of modernizing and strengthening the protection of the rights of consumers. In keeping with the requirements under the revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, the GSKN will continue the necessary groundwork to facilitate adoption of the said legislation here in the Federation,” he said.

Minister Grant said that St Kitts and Nevis has been on a positive route to ensuring that the rights of consumers transacting business online are safeguarded by enacting critical pieces of legislation which include The Electronic Crimes Act 2009, The Electronic Transactions Act 2011, and The Data Protection Act 2018.

“Although these pieces of legislation may offer some protection to consumers, the issues which persons face continue to evolve requiring the need for new or amendments to existing legislations. The efforts of the Government to strengthen the legislative and regulatory framework in regard to this issue is by no means an attempt to stifle businesses from being profitable. These changes will provide the facilitating environment for business development and expansion, while allowing for a fair, transparent, mutually beneficial relationship between service provider and consumer,” said the minister.

In addition to a strong legislative and regulatory framework, the protection of consumers must also be supported by lobbying and advocacy, said Minister Grant, adding that at the same time “businesses must be cognizant of their role in protecting the welfare of consumers and offer quality products, which are well supported by manufacturers to avoid security risks.”