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On the right track

by Neville Clarke

Anthony Wiggins

Anthony Wiggins

Consumer Protection Activist, Anthony Wiggings, will welcome the establishment of a properly functioning consumer protection lobby in Barbados.

And he therefore has greeted with open arms reports of the founding of the Consumer Trade and Research Association under the presidency of Valerie Grannum.

Wiggings made these observations recently during an interview with Barbados TODAY as the world prepares to celebrate world Consumer Protection Day.

The outspoken activist dismissed an earlier attempt at organising a consumer protection organisation which he saw as a major let down, because at no time was it able to raise a quorum.

“Imagine that there was a quorum of five persons that was needed to make a meeting official, yet at no time was that quorum ever raised. The leader of that organisation never held an annual general meeting nor presented a financial report. The group was registered at the Corporate Registry with the offices located at a St. Michael location, but the organisation never complied with the regulations,” Wiggings explained.

Wiggings suggested that the newly formed, Consumer Trade and Research Association, was on the right track even though Grannum was taking her time to ensure that the organisation had a firm grounding.

He pointed out that officials of the Ministry of Consumer Affairs were willing to work with a properly functioning organisation.

Commenting on the workings of the capitalism system, Wiggings noted that when a commodity is scarce the price of that commodity goes up.

Wiggings warned that the leader of a consumer protection organisation cannot be a serious advocate and be in bed with the owners of capital.

He suggested that a properly functioning consumer body would complement the workings of the Fair Trading Commission.

Wiggings recalled that when the commission was being established under then Minister of Commerce, Ronald Toppin, consumer protection groups were invited to make inputs at seminars sponsored by that ministry.

He further recalled that one seminar was held at Grand Barbados Hotel and the other at the Savannah Hotel.

Wiggings said: “If you are protecting the interests of consumers, whatever is detrimental to the interests of consumers, the organisation should be involved in and diametrically opposed to.”

He argued that a consumer protection organisation should be one of the biggest groups in any country, cutting across all social groups.

“Barbados is a part of the world and there is definitely a need for a vibrant, transparent and accountable organization to represent the interests of consumers,” Wiggings explained.

Wiggings bemoaned what he called faint-hearted leaders in consumer protection organisations who refrained from identifying products that were of poor quality.

He welcomed reports that many young students and graduates who had benefited from tertiary education were willing to lend their support to the consumer protection lobby.

Wiggings acknowledged that graduates in possession of such skills as information technology, accounting, economics, medicine, veterinary science, bio-chemistry, engineering and law would be welcomed in consumer protection.

He explained: “If you are constructing a chattel house or a $2 million mansion, you want to ensure that you get the best building materials for your money and the best services from carpenters, masons and quantity surveyors.”

Wiggings complained that some customers buy vehicles every day but did not know if they were getting value for money and suggested that any properly functioning consumer protection organisation should have a mechanical engineer on board.

He noted that in the United States and the United Kingdom there were consumer groups that acquire equipment to test items to ensure they were of the best quality.

The social activist maintained that consumer groups should have on board bio-chemists with the competencies to protect the health of consumers.

Wiggings contended that business houses should not be allowed to import goods that carried labels written only in a foreign language.

He explained that importers in the US and other developed countries were not allowed to engage in this practice.

“Some distributors in Barbados can go to a far Eastern country and buy products which do not carry labels written in English. These items should not be allowed entry into Barbados.”

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