“Consumers by definition, include us all. They are the largest economic group, affecting and affected by almost every public and private economic decisions. Yet they are the only important group whose views are often not heard.” Quote from Former US President John F. Kennedy’s Speech to US Congress on the 15th March, 1962.
The Consumer Affairs and Price Control Division is a division within the Ministry of Commerce, Industries, Labour and Immigration. The division consists of two (2) units; the Consumer Affairs Unit and the Price Control Unit.
Consumer Protection in these areas has been a matter of concern to the Government, therefore Consumer Protection Act, Price Control Act, Weights and Measures Act, and other related consumer laws are developed to help protect consumers in Solomon Islands.
Consumer Protection is important to protect the interests of consumers, for example by requiring businesses to disclose detailed information about products, particularly in areas where safety or public health is an issue, such as food. Consumer protection is also linked to the idea of consumer rights (that consumers have various rights as consumers), and to consumer organizations which help consumers to make better choices in the marketplace. Consumer protection covers a wide range of topics including but not necessarily limited to product liability, unfair business practices, fraud, misrepresentation, exclusive dealings, monopolisation, hoarding of goods, consumer complaints, redress and other consumer / business interactions.
MAIN DIVISIONAL OBJECTIVES OF THE DIVISION ARE;
- To protect rights and legitimate interests of Consumers. There are appropriate measures to be taken by the division to protect consumers as to their rights to certain expectations regarding safety, weights and measures, food quality, pricing, quantity and other characteristics relating to goods and services as well as their rights to redress.
- To establish and advise on necessary controls on measurements so as to ensure that the Physical nature and Quantity of Products and Codes of Practice employed are in line with National and International Standards.
- To promote Social Justice through Protection and Education of consumers and traders with respect to their rights and obligations.
- To eliminate unacceptably hazardous goods and services from the market places.
- To provide Consumer viewpoints in legislations, regulations, and other domestic policy proposals.
- To encourage and increase innovation, competition and consumer choices in the market places.
- To represent the interests of Solomon Islands’ Consumers in International, Governmental and Private forum.
RELEVANT LEGISLATIONS AND REGULATIONS;
The Consumer Affairs and Price Control Division, in the execution of its mandated functions and responsibilities, are governed by the following legislations and regulations:
- Weights and Measures Act (No. 12 of 1973)
- Consumer Protection Act (No. 2 of 1995)
- Price Control Act (No. 6 of 1982)
- Consumer Protection (Approved Standards for Restricted Electrical Products) Regulations 2016.
- Weights and Measures Regulation (draft)
CORE FUNCTIONS OF THE DIVISION
Most of the functions to be implemented by the Consumer Affairs and Price Control Division are directly related to the three legislations which are administered by the division. Some these functions are:
i. Consumer Education and Information Services
These are designed to maximize Consumer Awareness on consumer rights, responsibilities, how to lodge consumer complaints and remedies available to them if they are dissatisfied with products and services. Consumers are also educated on other consumer issues such as food safety, nutrition and security, environment, and standards of products. Traders are also educated about their responsibilities and the enforcement procedures available under these three legislations administered by the division.
ii. Consumer Complaints and Redress
These involve investigating and resolving consumer complaints through other appropriate means and which could be followed by prosecutions if needed. This can be described as dispute resolution through mediation, complaints resolution, redress and advisory services.
iii. Trade Measurement Services
Establishes necessary controls on measuring instruments which are used for trading. Inspectors calibrates and certifies measuring instruments, e.g. scales to be used by traders and service providers.
iv. Inspections for Products meeting Approved Standards.
The division also assists Honiara City Council’s Health Officers to inspect shops within Honiara City in terms of food standards as stipulated in the Pure Food Act and related regulations. The division can also liaise with Health Officers (Inspectors) in the provinces.
In addition, the division also implements the Minimum Energy Performance Standards and Labelling (MEPSL) for restricted electrical products such as fridges, refrigerators, air-conditions and lighting bulbs.
v. Price Control Services
The division also administers the Price Control Act by monitoring and placing restrictions on price controlled goods and services as stated in schedule 1 and Price Control Act Order 2014 and provides information to the Minister – MCILI through Price Advisory Committee.
vi. Compliance and Enforcement
The division can also initiates proceedings against companies and individuals who breach legislations and regulations administered by the division. Fines and other penalties maybe imposed.