Minister speaks on e-commerce for WCRD

Hon. Bradly Felix said online shopping presents challenges in the protection of consumer rights.

As Saint Lucia joins the rest of the world in observing World Consumer Rights Day on March 15, the minister with responsibility for Commerce, Industry, Investment, Enterprise Development and Consumer Affairs, Hon. Bradly Felix, said the requisite structures need to be strengthened to protect the interest of cyber shoppers.

Consumer Affairs Minister Hon. Bradley Felix said while the advent of digital technology has undoubtedly created unprecedented new opportunities for consumers, the internet continues to expose consumers to a number of challenges which, without action by governments, regulators and action groups, could undermine consumer confidence and trust in technology.

“Since the emergence of the internet, the digital age has fundamentally been impacting consumer protection and our understanding of consumer rights in the digital environment. It has allowed consumers greater access to get their voices heard, provide feedback, and at the same time is presenting challenges in the protection of those very fundamental consumer rights. As we sign onto to international and regional agreements it requires that we move to not only vigorously to protect consumers, but more importantly we must ensure that our nation’s economy fairly and adequately serves consumers’ interests, for consumer rights are human rights.”

Saint Lucia, he said, has been the first within the OECS to enact Consumer Protection Legislation, such as the Cyber Crime Act and the Electronic Transactions Act, both enacted in April 2011. But there is still need for the enactment of even more legislation and the adoption of policy and regulations to build consumer confidence in the use of technology, he added.

“Additionally, more consumers are engaging in cross border trade in goods and services as they have direct access to overseas markets though the internet. All of this exposes a great number of vulnerable cyber shoppers to internet scams, identity theft, cyber-bullying, with little or no recourse in redressing. Consequently, there is need to strengthen the laws, policies and regulations to protect the interest of our cyber shoppers as it relates to fair contract terms, secure payments, clear and accessible information, data security and data protection.”

In Saint Lucia, the number and rate of internet and cell phone users have soared from approximately 55,000 in 2006, to approximately 142,000 in 2010. Global projections suggest about 5.6 billion people will own a smart phone by the year 2019.

World Consumer Rights Day 2017, is being observed under the theme “Consumer Rights in the Digital Age – Building a Digital World Consumers Can Trust.”