Marlin-Romeo calls for establishment of Consumer Protection Agency

POSTED: 03/19/15 6:51 PM

St. Maarten —The time has come for the establishment of a Consumer Protection Agency locally, independent MP Leona Marlin-Romeo opined yesterday, pointing out that consumer protection laws exists locally but there is no body to execute such laws.

The MP noted that statistics continue to show that the island is still considered and favoured as the duty free shopping hub of the Caribbean. “Millions are spent in purchases on this island and yet both local consumers and transitional consumers purchasing goods are still not privy to the support of a consumer protection agency. In addition, many locals are subjected to questionable acts of financial institutions but are left hopeless because of the lack of support from such an agency.  Despite the existence of general laws on consumer protection there are insufficient laws that protect the people from ill practices of financial institutions and laws that protect the consumer from themselves. Consumer Protection laws are created to protect and prevent the engagement of fraud, theft, and biased practices from both large and small companies.  Nothing is produced on the island, and everything consumed is imported, it leaves one to question why provisions have not been made to allow disputes and complaints to be handled by a Consumer Protection Agency before using the judicial system,” the independent MP said.

She added that there is no doubt that consumers on St. Maarten have experienced some sort of dispute about low quality, inferior products, counterfeit products being purchased, identity theft or even being a victim of unscrupulous business practices such as disputes with both banks and notaries. “From the many complaints experienced by consumers it is imperative that an entity be established, similar to the American Better Business Bureau, or the KIFID and the “Autoriteit Consument & Markt” in the Netherlands to handle matters of disputes affecting all consumers. As Member of Parliament, I am proposing that the discussion on establishing a Consumer Protection Agency be tabled for immediate discussion with the Chamber of Commerce, BTP-SXM, SER the Central Bank, the Notaries, the Government of St. Maarten and Parliament as co-legislator.

“There must be a department or an entity that promotes and assists in enforcing consumer laws.  An entity that is accessible to assist when a consumer law has been broken. This entity can serve as a mediator or facilitator to the court system on everyday matters and threats related to the abuse of the consumer. A consumer in St. Maarten has the right to know their rights and be protected by the country in which goods or services were purchased or rendered for direct use or ownership,” concluded Independent MP Hon. Leona Marlin-Romeo.

The MP plans on forwarding a letter to the respective minister on this matter which she said “affects us all.”

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