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In cell hell

Barbadians are rushing in their numbers to lodge complaints against cell phone providers in the island.

News of this emerged while Chairman of the Consumer Claims Tribunal, Jefferson Cumberbatch, was fielding questions at the end of his lecture this morning at the Warrens Government Offices on the topic, Ten Years of Reformed Consumer Protection — the Role of the Public Counsel.

Referring to New Zealand, where its Consumer Complaints Tribunal had established a separate division to deal with the influx of motor vehicle claims, Cumberbatch said if Barbados was to follow suit, its division would be for cell phones.

“We are up to our ears regarding cell phones,” declared the tribunal head.

He said when the Consumer Guarantees Act was in its infancy, the issue of mobile phones was mooted, but not seriously contemplated to be put to paper.

“But there was a suggestion that we, too, could have a separate division to deal with cell phones,” added the legal consultant.

“I’ll tell you now, if we were to have any separate division, it would have to deal with cell phones. We have the majority of cell phone cases.”

Cumberbatch told his audience that included Public Counsel Eli Edwards and Registrar of the Consumer Claims Tribunal, Wayne Best, that they have had complaints of phones that sweat when left in the sun, phones on which the wrong “equipment” had been down loaded and one case where the phone dropped.

“Yes, cell phones occupy a large amount of our time,” he added. “We have had cases against Cable & Wireless with cell phones, but they concerned equipment itself, not billing.”

Following a question from the audience, Cumberbatch pointed out that honouring any claim of over charging for a phone, would have to come under “not more than a reasonable price should be paid”.

And this is a very funny guarantee,” he noted. “The only remedy for a guarantee where you are saying a reasonable price has not been charged, is not to pay. Not that you are going to pay and then come before the tribunal to recoup it. (EJ)

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