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Did You Know?

  • The FTC must consult the public before making decisions on utility regulation matters.
  • The FTC has the power to stop a merger.
  • If you have been misled about the price or nature of goods or services, you must first let the business try to resolve it before contacting the FTC.
The Commissionís Continuing Pledge PDF Print

Change is the only constant in life! We know how you look forward to our column every week but the Commission is intending at this time to take a short break as we reassess our communication strategy.

The Fair Trading Commission however wishes to remind the public of our continuing commitment towards the safeguarding of consumer rights, the provisioning of efficient utility services, and the fostering of fair and healthy business competition.

The Commission recognises that solid legal analysis and the application of sound principles is the hallmark of effective decision-making in a complex and dynamic environment. The Commission further recognises that your confidence can only be earned if its processes are transparent and user friendly. We have therefore sought your input in matters with the issuance of consultation papers, and continue to encourage your feedback on all our areas of responsibility.

Safeguarding Your Consumer Rights

Constant vigilance of the marketplace is needed to ensure that the rights bestowed on consumers by the Laws of Barbados are fully protected. To this end the Fair Trading Commission’s officers conduct regular visits to businesses to inform them of their obligations and investigate reported breaches of the consumer laws of Barbados. Commission staff examine newspaper and other media advertising for misleading and deceptive content. Businesses in breach of the laws are required to withdraw and revise offending advertisements.

Retail outlets have been required to stop displaying ‘No exchange, No refund’ signs and to remove this statement from invoices and sales receipts. When you discover that there are two prices affixed to one item, if you are purchasing the item, it must be at the lower price. When suppliers, be it contractors, lawyers or drycleaners take your money they must supply the exact goods or services that you agreed to purchase.

The contracts of statutory corporations and utility companies that supply you with services have come under recent review. Where necessary the Commission has notified some suppliers that the Commission considers some of their contract terms to be ‘unfair’ and that they run the risk that these provisions will be held unenforceable against you, the consumer, by a court of law.

Developing a Competitive Market

To discharge its responsibilities under the Fair Competition Act the Commission has conducted a number of inquiries and assessed the merger transactions that fall under its purview. Examination of the practices of various professions and industry sectors is ongoing to prevent anti-competitive behaviour stymieing growth in the various sectors.

The Commission offers guidance by the periodic issuance of Guidelines in the area of fair competition and the hosting of meetings with the business community.

In recent times the issue of “price gouging” has been in the news. Price gouging refers to instances where a supplier charges a price substantially above the last price(s) within a short period.

Under certain circumstances, Price gouging may be outlawed under section 16 of the Fair Competition Act as excessive or unreasonable pricing if;

it is undertaken by a firm that operates in a market without any real or effective competition, (i.e. a dominant firm); and

The prices charged are not driven by increased costs.

In some circumstances, the charging of higher prices may be driven by increased costs. Where this is the case, it would not be prohibited, because such increases would be necessary to sustain that business’s operations.

Where however, a group of suppliers undertake price gouging through some common agreement or understanding, the practice would be prohibited under the Act as a case of price fixing.

Ensuring Efficient Utility Services

The Commission maintains responsibility for the provision of efficient utility services, and in this regard it will continue its oversight of our utility service providers to ensure that the rates charged are economic, and the services provided are of the highest quality.

The development of service standards that demand that you receive a high level of service from regulated utility companies was paramount on the Commission’s agenda and we appreciated the input from all stakeholders in making this a reality as the standards of service for electricity and telecommunications come into force on June 1, 2006.

Public Communication and Awareness

The Commission has recognised that education remains the key to enforcement of the legislation under its purview. We recognise that effective communication must be continuous and sustained and we will continue to make public awareness and accessibility a key plank of our mandate.

If you have any queries about Utility Regulation, Consumer Protection or Fair Competition, please contact the Fair Trading Commission at 424-0260, or 421-2FTC.

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