Consumer protection debate turns into supermarkets-attack

POSTED: 10/18/11 12:39 PM

St. Maarten – The Central Committee meeting about consumer protection and price control turned into a public attack on the business practices of supermarkets yesterday morning. National Alliance leader William Marlin said that consumers are often duped when they buy packaged vegetables and cheese. “In a pack of tomatoes five may be good, two are no good and one is on the way out,” he said. “Consumers pay maybe 4 guilders but they end up with produce worth maybe 1.25.”
Marlin also wondered about a remarkable discovery he made one day in a supermarket where out of thirty packages of seasoning peppers, about half had exactly the same price. “That made me wonder whether who is packaging them knows that peppers are so similar that six peppers always have the same weight. It may look frivolous to argue about differences of three or five cents, but if a supermarket is consistently ripping off consumers, at the end of the day it adds up.”
Marlin said he believes that supermarkets print a number of labels with the same price before packaging produce like peppers, or cheese. He also criticized the many products on the shelves with an expired sell by date. “Supermarkets ought to be aware of this and remove those products.”
The NA-leader furthermore touched upon the import of bottled water, and wanted to know if water is subject to controls. Marlin pointed out that most water is bottled in plastic bottles. “When those bottles are exposed to sunlight, consuming the water could have negative health effects. Sometimes shipments are left for days in a container before they go to the supermarkets.”
At the beginning of his address, Marlin spoke about the sales of refurbished appliances and products. “One of the cries we hear from people is that the cost of living is going up every day, while salaries are not increasing and businesses are scaling back hours. We ought to make it compulsory for businesses to state that a product is refurbished. People have the right to know what they are buying; it is only fair to know that something is not brand new.”
MP George Pantophlet said that he had sent a letter with ten questions to Economic Affairs Minister Franklin Meyers on August 17, but that he still had not received a reply. President Gracita Arrindell pointed out that the questions had been answered, and Pantophlet’s fellow-faction member Lloyd Richardson added that he had the answers in his possession. Pantophlet continued all the same to read out his questions.
Independent Frans Richardson inquired about the price-control study for which Usona had signed off on a 50,000 guilder contract with the government fifteen months ago. He also wanted to know if the minister had formulated a consumer protection policy.
Jules James suggested the establishment of a Better Business Bureau, modeled after the example of the United States.
Sylvia Meyers offered some real information: “There are 102 supermarkets on the island. That is a lot. How often do we control them?”
Minister Meyers will answer the questions when the meeting reconvenes on Thursday.

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