Commerce Minister hints at regulating cellphone shops

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[www.inewsguyana.com] – Commerce Minister, Irfaan Ali is urging consumers to have a better understanding of their rights, as Guyana joined the rest of the world in celebrating World Consumer Rights Day 2014, under the theme ‘Fix our Phone Rights’.

 Minister of  Commerce, Irfaan Ali with Chairman, Competition and Consumers Affairs Ramesh Dookhoo and CEO of GT&T, Radha Krishna Sharma at the World Consumer Rights Day 2014 symposium.
Minister of Commerce, Irfaan Ali with Chairman, Competition and Consumers Affairs Ramesh Dookhoo and CEO of GT&T, Radha Krishna Sharma at the World Consumer Rights Day 2014 symposium.

Minister Ail was among others including consumers, telephone providers and regulators, who gathered at the Guyana International Conference Centre (GICC) at Liliendaal to commemorate the activity on Friday, March 14.

Also present were Chairman, Competition and Consumer Affairs Ramesh Dookhoo, Director, Guyana National Bureau of Standards (GNBS,) Evadnie Ennis and the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Guyana Telephone and Telegraph (GT&T) company, Radha Krishna Sharma.

Minister Ali noted that consumers have been allowing themselves to be consumed and noted that this is why, in the context of telephone services that providers have been spending such large budgets on marketing, and why they continue to change phone technology so rapidly.

“It is because they have seen the world over, the ability of the consumer to consume themselves in wanting a better phone every day, so they would launch I-phone 4 today, and six months after, I-phone 5,” the Minister said.

Ali also pointed out that the consumersalso allow themselves to lose redress in protecting themselves when they use the recognised and certified providers.

He highlighted the instance of a customer engaging a little known dealer in unlocking a phone, but in so doing, is losing out on the rights and protection that would have been afforded him by purchasing or having the service provided by a recognised business.

“The time has come for us to regulate the sector and that would require changes at all levels, small cell phone shops around will have to subject themselves to scrutiny, the large company would have to subject themselves to scrutiny, and the consumers will have to subject themselves to scrutiny because when we speak of fair trade and fair play, it is fairness from every stakeholder to the transaction,” the Minister said.

The Minister’s address was not without highlight of several areas in which the providers seek to hide and infringe on the rights of the consumers. He spoke about transparency of the providers’ billing systems, the effectiveness of their consumer complaints mechanism and the issue of hidden cost embedded in contracts/service.

Dookhoo who also addressed the activity noted that the level of redress in consumer protection in Guyana has travelled a far way, from moral suasion to the heights of now having legislation capable of protecting a consumer.

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