Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : October 18th 2015 Contents CELEBRATING WORLD FOOD DAY
Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt October 18, 2015
MORA GRADE I
All sizes including
Cedar, Kiln Dried &
SARAN SAMPATH LTD
CHARLES KONG SOO
The price of eggs and bread
baked by one large conglomerate
were raised prior to the October
5 budget. Super gasoline and
diesel prices went up by 15 per
cent post-budget. Chag-
uanas/Curepe and Grand
Bazaar/Valsayn taxi fares were
raised by $1, a tax on online shop-
ping is under consideration, and
TSTT will be increasing its
"unbundled" prepaid mobile rates
from November 1.
So far, the $1 increase in doubles
has raised the ire of consumers
more than the increase in fuel.
Consumer advocate Hazel
Brown who raised concerns about
rising prices wants tech-savvy IT
people to assist her in setting up
an online consumer action group
organisation, where consumers can
monitor and report unscrupulous
businessmen who take advantage
of and exploit consumers.
Speaking to the Sunday
Guardian, Brown said: "We want
to remind people that prices only
remain in place when there is a
sufficient number of people who
voluntarily agree to pay. A signif-
icant number of people refusing
to pay will also make a difference
and we have to learn how to do
"Right now, there is no space if
something happens for people to
report what they had found or
what they were going to do.
"People are behaving as if the
situation is hopeless and powerless,
but that is not so, we have the
power in our purses and wallets."
She said many people out there
were too complacent; they wanted
to see action taken but didn't want
to do it, claiming they had no time.
Brown said they wanted other peo-
ple to put up a fight and struggle,
and then they came along and
benefited from it.
Brown said the proposed online
site would enable people to con-
tribute posts, advertise where to
get the best prices, indicate where
people could bargain shop, high-
light events and share information.
She said they would also advise
people that there were alternatives
for other products which they
Brown said if the price was too
high, consumers could decline to
buy, do comparison shopping, read
price tags, do calculations, use
alternative ingredients or products.
She said the Consumer Affairs
Division was definitely not doing
enough to protect consumers and
that she gave up on the division
a long time ago, since Mervyn
Assam was consumer affairs min-
ister in 1995.
Brown said she had tried to
encourage the division to be more
proactive and to support the for-
mation of consumer groups in the
When asked with the advent of
social media if the old Trini mind-
set of "we cyar eat de money" was
changing, she said it was, but very
slowly in respect of certain things.
Brown said that one person
could make a difference; she had
the experience where a few people
had a problem and acted on it. She
said it did not take long for vendors
or manufacturers to respond to
the customers' complaints. They
received feedback if their products
were turning over or not, she said.
Brown said a very special oppor-
tunity was coming for consumers
to have their voices heard in respect
to VAT. Finance Minister Colm Imbert
proposed to decrease VAT from 15 per
cent to 12.5 per cent.
This would be done in tandem with
reviewing and adjusting VAT exemp-
tions and zero-rated items which he
said were associated with non-essential
items and were not critically important
to citizens' livelihoods and basic cost
VAT was removed from 7,000 items
under the last government.
Brown said the VAT re-evaluation
should be taken on as a consumer issue
because people didn't know what was
on this list of items that would no longer
be zero rated or exempt.
She said people had to participate in
these decisions as the price on zero-
rated items could be increased anytime.
For more information, Brown can be
contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
and is also on Facebook.
Ministry of Trade: Consumers
empowered to take action
The Ministry of Trade and Industry,
whose purview the Consumer Affairs
Division falls under, replied via email
to the Sunday Guardian on Friday that
consumers were empowered to take
action on their behalf under the Sale
of Goods Act, Misrepresentation Act,
Hire Purchase Act, and Unfair Terms
All of these acts were available on
the website of the Ministry of the Attor-
ney General and Legal Affairs.
Yolande Agard-Simmons, the min-
istry's manager, Corporate Communi-
cations, said this year they had devel-
oped a revised National Consumer
Policy. The previous approved policy
was dated in 1996.
"This revised policy was developed
based on the Caricom Consumer Bill
with benchmarking against those that
exist in Barbados and New Zealand.
"We expect this policy to be approved
by Cabinet in the coming months, fol-
lowing which we will review the existing
legislation with a view to upgrading
and reviewing the areas on which we
have received complaints over the
She said it should be noted that the
division currently operated under the
Consumer Protection and Safety Act
1985 and the Trade Description Act
Agard-Simmons said in protecting
the interests of the country's consumers,
the division collaborated closely with
the Regulated Industries Commission,
The Telecommunications Authority of
T&T, The T&T Bureau of Standards,
and Chemistry Food and Drugs.
She said consumers should know
that the Consumer Affairs Division had
been re-branded, its new tag line being
"Putting the power on your side," where
through its outreach activities it edu-
cated consumers on both their rights
Brown on rising prices:
We have power in our purses, wallets
UWI students from left, La-Verna Clarissa, Stavier Denecia and Maryssa
Beckford light their candles in celebration of World Food Day Candlelight
Vigil held at UWI, St Augustine, on Friday night. PHOTO: ABRAHAM DIAZ
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