The Consumer Affairs Division has reminded consumers of their power to refuse to buy any overpriced items or services.
For the past year, several businesses have announced price increases on their products and services to cushion the losses that restrictions of the pandemic have caused to the businesses community.
Recently, National Flour Mills Ltd, Nutrimix, Kiss Baking Co and Linda’s Bakery joined the list of companies to adjust prices on several of their products. Many called on the government to intervene as they grew concerned by the steady increases and the ripple effect on retail goods.
While the division cannot regulate price increases, it can advise customers to shop around.
During the first of a series of virtual Consumer Talks hosted by the division on Friday, Claudette Jordan-John, acting director of the Consumer Guidance and Protection Unit, said, “If something is not making economic sense to you, we suggest that you use your power and desist from doing transactions with that business.
“I encourage consumers to shop around and check first. Normally consumers rarely would know if the price was X and now at a sale the price is still X; in that instance, consumers have the responsibility to not patronise that establishment.
“You can bring that to our attention and we can have some discussion with the supplier, but you, as the consumer, have the power to purchase or not to purchase.”
She asked customers to be careful of online stores as, in recent times, more customers are becoming victims of fraud carried out by retailers on social media.
“Numerous complaints have come through our e-mail and social media platforms on this. So we want to tell consumers, when you’re purchasing items on social media, it is important to know the person you are purchasing from has a reputable store. You want to ensure that store has a physical address as well.
“It will be very difficult for us to contact a supplier who doesn’t have a physical address and only a phone number, because sometimes when you call them they could block your call as well.
“Sometimes you really don’t know who you are doing business with. If you do make an online local purchase, ensure you look at it when you collect it to make to ensure it’s not damaged. Just don’t take the package and walk away
“A lot of people complain that they meet someone in a carpark and they exchange money and collect the product. When they reach home it’s not what they paid for. Then they explain it is difficult to get on to the supplier.”
Camille MacIntyre, consumer advocate, reminded customers of their right to choose, right to safety and right to redress once the complaint is legitimate.
Although there has been no significant increase in complaints during the pandemic, it’s important for customers always to remember their responsibility, she said.
“You must properly check the product before signing that it was received in good order.
“Also, buyer’s remorse isn’t a legitimate reason to return a product. The item can only be refunded, exchanged, or repaired if it doesn’t fit, isn’t working, damaged, or if the product is defective.”
The division can be reached by e-mail at [email protected] or through its website www.tradeind.gov.tt.