After years of promises, the territory might finally get consumer protection legislation.
Last week Cabinet approved the Consumer Protection Act, 2019, paving the way for a first reading in the House of Assembly.
“We did a little twist on it,” Premier Andrew Fahie said during an April 25 HOA sitting.
Mr. Fahie (R-D1) credited Opposition Leader Marlon Penn (R-D8) for trying to push through the legislation when he was junior trade minister, and he added that it wasn’t Mr. Penn’s fault that it didn’t pass already.
“There were members with him that didn’t believe in it, [but] those that had [a conflict] are gone,” he said. “The people of the Virgin Islands will get
what they deserve. They will get protection from the people who are not doing what they are supposed to do with them, with the prices. … And we had some funds there when we finished to help us get there in this budget.”
In April 2018 Cabinet approved a consumer protection policy framework that Mr. Penn said would then go to the Attorney General’s Chambers to be worked into potential legislation.
However, as hurricane season approached, no bill had been introduced to the HOA, and legislators squabbled over who was blame for the delay.
During an HOA sitting last August, Mr. Penn publicly called on Attorney General Baba Aziz to finish drafting the bill in order to “bring some type of control, some kind of guidance and redress, to the commerce market in the BVI and especially what we experienced a year ago after the passage of hurricanes Irma and Maria and the level of gouging and unfair business practices that ensued after those storms.”
At the time, Mr. Penn demanded to see a draft of the act introduced by the end of last summer.
During a sitting that September, Mr. Aziz shot back, claiming the delay was due to a “legal conundrum”relating to the establishment of a statutory body.
The AG’s Chambers, he explained, had successfully drafted consumer protection legislation in 2004 and revised it again in 2011 and 2013 and in no “way, shape or form” intended to delay any bill Cabinet had instructed it to draft, he added.
The matter surfaced again a month later, when Cabinet announced that it had considered the Trade Policy Review Committee Report and approved the National Trade Policy of the Virgin Islands, which includes an overall policy framework for competition and con- sumer affairs.
An update from the Cabinet Office explained that the Premier’s Office would instruct the Attorney General’s Chambers to draft the legal paperwork.
Lawmakers have promised to pass consumer protection legislation for years and the issue was much discussed in the months after the hurricanes.