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ANNUAL REPORT Consumer Affairs Bermuda

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ANNUAL REPORT Consumer Affairs Bermuda Powered By Docstoc
					PROMOTING CONFIDENT CONSUMERS
    AND RESPONSIBLE TRADERS




      ANNUAL REPORT
      2    0    0    8
PROMOTING CONFIDENT CONSUMERS
    AND RESPONSIBLE TRADERS




      ANNUAL REPORT
      2    0    0    8
CONTENTS
Letter of Transmittal

INTRODUCTION .............................. 7
Our Board ............................................................ 8
Our Team ............................................................. 8

SPECIAL PROJECTS ........................ 9
Licensing Authority ................................................ 9
Product Stewardship............................................ 10
Web Site ............................................................ 11
Case Management System ................................... 11
Complaints Process ............................................ 12

ENFORCEMENT ............................. 12
Case Highlights .................................................. 12
Client Satisfaction................................................ 13
Trends ............................................................... 15

EDUCATION .................................. 16
Consumer Radio Broadcast .................................. 16
Newspaper Column ............................................. 16
Reader Feedback ................................................ 17
Presentations...................................................... 18
Pamphlets and Guides ........................................ 18

LEGISLATIVE INITIATIVES .............. 19

STAFFING ..................................... 20

MISSION AND ENFORCEMENT ...... 21
Our Mission........................................................ 21
Our Motto 21 ...................................................... 21
Our Board .......................................................... 21
Our Responsibility ............................................... 22
Our Enforcement ................................................. 22




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LETTER OF TRANSMITTAL
The Hon. Dale D. Butler, JP MP
Ministry of Culture and Social Rehabilitation
Melbourne House
11 Parliament Street
Hamilton HM 12

1 April 2009

Dear Minister,

On behalf of the Consumer Affairs Board, I am pleased to submit Consumer Affairs’
eighth annual report for the year ending December 2008.

This report details the work of the Board and the office of Consumer Affairs’ in providing
consumer protection and a wide range of related services to the public. Our work in 2008
has been diverse and judicious in nature, achieving positive results for consumers,
businesses and the environment.

This past year has been about creating positive partnerships that drive a common
objective. Three such partnerships were:
     •	 the Licensing Authority Task Force working in collaboration with the trades and
           construction industry to produce a Bermuda work specific licensing model;
     •	 a partnership was formed with Works and Engineering, Chamber of Commerce
           Supermarket Division and E-Retailers to provide environmentally-friendly
           recycling alternatives for e-waste, paper and plastic shopping bags; and
     •	 opened up communication channels with our counterparts in Britain which
           will enhance our local staff training and international investigations.

Minister, it has been my great pleasure to work along side Board members and staff
who are passionate about protecting the rights of consumers. Their in-depth knowledge
and dedication to the tasks at hand has afforded Consumer Affairs many successes
throughout the past year. I would therefore like to take this opportunity to commend
the Board and the staff of Consumer Affairs for their steadfast commitment to a job well
done.

I respectfully submit Consumer Affairs 2008 Annual Report for your presentation to the
House.


Sincerely,

Trevor W. Fyfe, Dip.C.Eng; MSc
Chairman
LETTER OF TRANSMITTAL




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    INTRODUCTION:
    OUR TEAM

    Consumer Affairs Board Members:               Licensing Authority Task Force:

    Mr. Trevor Fyfe (Chairman)                    Mr. Michael Oatley (Chairman)
    Ms. Rachel Cabot (Deputy Chair)               Mr. Herman Basden
    Mr. Harry Andrews                             Mr. Allan Brooks
    Ms. Toni Bridgewater                          Mr. Allan Burland
    Ms. Yvonne Cacace                             Mr. Alex DeCouto
    Mr. Travis Gilbert                            Mr. Travis Gilbert
    Ms. Eslyn Harvey                              Mr. Marshall Minors
    Mr. Kenrick James                             Dr. Eugenie Simmons
    Mr. Peter Miller                              Mr. Michael Stowe
    Mr. David Tavares                             Mr. James Welch
    Ms. Karen Rawlins                             Ms. Karen Marshall
    Mr. Alan Young
    OUR PEOPLE
    Consumer Affairs Staff:

    Ms. Karen Marshall (Executive Officer)
    Ms. Rhonda Daniels (Enforcement Officer)
    Mr. Marc Drew (Enforcement Officer)
    Ms. Laura Semos (Education Officer)
    Ms. Heather Marshall (Administrative Assistant)



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SPECIAL PROJECTS
Licensing Authority Task Force

The Licensing Authority Task Force was formed in March 2007 by resolution of the
Consumer Affairs Board with the authority of Cabinet. The Task Force directive was to
develop recommendations for the establishment of a Licensing Authority that would
improve services to the consumer. The construction industry was selected as the industry
to be addressed in the first instance. It was envisioned that licensing would be extended
to other industries according to needs as they unfold. In addition, the Task Force adopted
the principle that the Licensing Authority should be a developmental tool for industry as
opposed to punitive.


The early work of the Task Force involved consultation with the Construction Association
of Bermuda. This work resulted in extending the scope of work to include consideration
of the benefits that might accrue by industry as well as consumers.


The Task Force consisted of representatives from the construction industry, Government
departments, Bermuda College and the Consumer Affairs Board. Sixteen meetings were
held during 2007. The Task Force considered similar programmes in a number of other
jurisdictions and met with local industry representatives individually and in industry
sector workshops. The members also engaged a consulting firm that specializes in
creating standards and testing materials for Industry licensing in the U.S.


The Task Force found that while initial reactions from the industry stakeholders were
cautious in terms of expressing concern about “over-regulation”; after consideration,
the reactions generally turned positive, recognizing the benefits in terms of leveling the
playing field and improving professionalism and industry standards.


From the outset concerns were raised over the perceived overlap between the
National Occupational Certification Act 2004 and the proposed Licensing Authority.
As a consequence the Task Force considered this matter carefully with the National
Training Board and determined that the two initiatives were not in conflict. The National
Occupational Certification Act 2004 mission is to develop skills of individuals to a
recognized standard whereas the Licensing Authority will focus on business entities to
promote good business practices and service quality.

In the interest of establishing a credible licence at the outset it was determined that
grandfathering is essential because it will allow existing businesses to continue to
operate and in doing so provide the framework for monitoring compliance with licence
standards going forward.


As a result of legal consultation, as well as a review of financial and administrative
considerations, the Task Force found that it would be most practical to establish the
Licensing Authority by modifying the Consumer Protection Act 1999 to encompass the
work of the Authority.

As a consequence of consultation with industry stakeholders the Task Force agreed
that licensing should not be considered as a means of realizing a new revenue stream
for Government but should offset costs. To this end a revenue and expenditure plan
covering the first six years of operations was developed. The estimates were based on
initially developing nine licence categories followed by one renewal period.



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    On the basis of the above findings, the Task Force recommended the following:
    1. The Consumer Protection Act 1999 be amended to establish the Licensing Authority
    and assign duties, functions and responsibilities for administration of licensing.

    2. Standard operating procedures be defined. This will include issuing and renewing
    of licences, devising and revising licensing categories, investigating and adjudicating
    complaints.

    The administration of licensing will be assigned to a standing Licensing Authority
    supported by Consumer Affairs and two special-purpose panels formed as required.
    The Licensing Authority will comprise six members and will grant, renew and create
    licences. Consumer Affairs will function as the administrative and investigative arm of
    the Licensing Authority. A Licence Advisory Panel will be formed – as needed – under the
    direction of the Licensing Authority to compile and revise licence standards and related
    testing materials. A Licensing Adjudicating Panel will be formed under the direction of
    the Licensing Authority – as needed – to address complaints filed by licensed businesses
    when they feel unfairly aggrieved by the Licensing Authority decisions. A Licence
    Adjudication Panel has the power to uphold or to revoke a decision of the Licensing
    Authority, or to issue a warning against a licence if they feel the Authority’s decision to
    deny a licence was too severe. Both panels will be granted the powers of a commission.

    A business will be issued a licence in the first instance via grandfathering or meeting the
    standard via examination and experience. Licences will be renewed on the basis of a
    satisfactory work record and being in good standing with the Government. Provisional
    licences will be issued for a period of one year to those who are grandfathered initially
    and will automatically be upgraded to a full licence on the basis of a good track record.
    Those who secure a licence by examination but lack the required experience standard
    will be granted a provisional licence until they meet the required experience level.

    Consumer Affairs will maintain a public register of licensed lusinesses. This register will
    show ‘warnings against licences’ upheld or issued by a Licence Adjudication Panel.
    The full Licensing Authority Task Force Report is currently under review.

    PRODUCT STEWARDSHIP

    The Consumers and Environment Task Group was chaired by Consumer Affairs
    Education Officer, Laura Semos, and comprised representatives from the Department
    of Environmental Protection, Ministry of Works and Engineering and Department of
    Planning. The group liaised with representatives from the Sustainable Development Unit
    and the Department of Energy, BELCO, and non-governmental organizations such as
    Greenrock.

    The Task Group worked to address programme gaps in areas of shared interest, including
    encouraging consumers to make environmentally sustainable purchasing choices,
    dispose of special waste and recycling products properly, encourage retailers to market
    and distribute environmentally sustainable products, and look to reduce consumers’
    carbon footprint through renewable energy and reduced waste.

    In 2008, Consumer Affairs partnered with the Ministry of Works and Engineering Waste
    Management Division to launch Bermuda’s new Cell Phone Recycling Programme,
    “Recycle Bermuda – Participating Retailer”.




8
In follow-up to June’s E-Waste Recycling Event, which captured greater than 500 cell
phones to be shipped off-Island for recycling by the Ministry of Works and Engineering,
the new Cell Phone Recycling Programme established convenient cell phone recycling
programmes at major cell phone retailers across the Island, including Cellular One, M3
Wireless, Digicel, Audio Visual Electronics, and All Talk.

The purpose of this initiative was to encourage consumers to turn in their cell phones and
batteries in order to divert these components from the incinerator, where they comprise
hazardous waste due to containing heavy metals such as lead, nickel, lithium and
cadmium, all of which can pollute the environment and threaten human health. When
recycled properly, the metals can be put back into circulation, decreasing the need for
new metal mining.

Bermuda’s present e-waste recycler, located in Philadelphia, PA, meets all EPA and
regulatory standards for safe recycling. Plant workers operate in a clean, risk-free
environment. All cell phone and e-waste components are shredded and precious metals
are recovered for recycling into new consumer goods, ensuring that cell phones and
e-waste shipped from Bermuda do not become landfill in other countries.

All cell phone retailers in Bermuda agreed to participate in this programme and accepted
recycling bins in their stores for consumers to turn in cell phones, batteries and iPods
for recycling. Participating retailers were also given a window sticker to alert consumers
that they may recycle these goods at the store location. A press launch kicked off this
programme in November 2008.

In follow-up to this programme, Consumer Affairs and Works and Engineering Waste
Management Section extended the “Recycle Bermuda – Participating Retailer” programme
to include other products such as compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFL) light bulbs.

WEBSITE

Consumer Affairs launched its new website, www.ca.gov.bm in spring 2008, debuting
as a featured site on the Government portal, and drawing immediate use by clients using
its online complaint form.

The Consumer Affairs website is an eye-catching, interactive website that allows
consumers and researchers to find all the relevant information they need to protect their
rights and maintain their responsibilities in the marketplace. As well, it offers weekly
updated news articles, a revolving consumer tip, and information on recalled products
to be aware of. There are sections targeting young consumers as well as seniors, and
both consumers and businesses can access information regarding “going green”. The
site was designed to include pages on the proposed Licensing Authority, and thus will
grow with Consumer Affairs.

CASE MANAGEMENT SYSTEM

The case management system is a highly effective tool capturing every aspect of an
investigation, from case events to product and company information. The system
provides Consumer Affairs with statistical data, court documents and tracking of product
trends, among other data.

In 2008 the case management system was rolled out to four additional Government
Departments, bringing the total to seven departments currently using the system. The
implementation of the system is managed by Stan Bean with the technical support of
Heather Marshall, Administrative Officer for Consumer Affairs.



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     COMPLAINTS PROCESS

     A person can file a complaint with Consumer Affairs in one of the following ways – phone
     call, letter, fax, e-mail or through our website. Alternatively some consumers prefer to file
     a complaint in person. Each case is handled fairly, professionally and efficiently.

     Once the complaint has been filed an Enforcement Officer is assigned to the case and
     contacts the consumer to give advice and guidance on the best way to handle the
     complaint. He or she may also try mediation between the parties or decide if further
     investigation should be undertaken.

     If the Enforcement Officer has reasonable cause to believe an offence has been committed
     by an individual or company under the Consumer Protection Act 1999, he or she has
     the authority to enter premises, seize any relevant documents and products and make
     test purchases.

     Sometimes despite mediation or an investigation, the Enforcement Officer may not arrive
     at a solution that completely satisfies a complainant. In that case, the complainant still
     has the option of having the case heard in a court of law.


     ENFORCEMENT
     CASE HIGHLIGHTS

     Just as Consumer Affairs encourages retailers and service providers to adhere to a
     high level of customer service satisfaction, Consumer Affairs holds itself to carrying
     out its mandate to promote confident consumers and responsible traders with the
     highest standards of integrity, efficiency and service to individuals and to commercial,
     professional and governmental organizations. Consumer Affairs takes all incoming
     phone calls within its operating business hours and responds to new clients within two
     business days.

     One of the many impediments in Bermuda’s marketplace is consumers not upholding
     their responsibilities or misinterpreting their rights and responsibilities when buying
     goods and services. In order to understand the complexity and divergent nature of our
     investigations, the following are real case examples drawn from Consumer Affairs’ Case
     Management System in 2008:

     Case Highlight One
     Consumer Affairs was contacted by clients seeking assistance with billing irregularities
     in the medical services industry. The Enforcement Officer investigated and discovered
     that the clients were unfairly caught between the healthcare providers and the insurance
     companies. This irregularity developed when the providers changed their pricing
     practices without the agreement of the other entities typically involved in decisions of this
     nature. This led to the insurance companies refusing to pay anything above the agreed
     price list and the providers threatening to send their debtors to a debt collection agency,
     where they would face high penalties and interest rates. In the course of this ongoing
     investigation and mediation, the Enforcement Officer worked with the regulatory body to
     have the issue addressed in a formal and legal manner, providing the regulatory body
     with documented evidence of the practice to be addressed.

     Case Highlight Two
     Enforcement Officers investigate many get-rich schemes and lotteries. One such
     investigation was the YTB Travel Network as it related to their business practices both
     here and abroad. This was in response to an article that appeared in the 21 January
     2008 issue of The Royal Gazette concerning multi-level marketing plans. In the end



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it was determined that YTB has all the aspects of a multi-level marketing plan (MLM);
including that their structure is very close to that of a pyramid scheme but avoids being
labelled as such due to the offer of a product or service to consumers. The problem
an MLM plan has in Bermuda is our limited population resource. If one enters into
the plan for financial gain, the gain is only realized if you get into the plan in the early
stages. Once the plan has been operating locally for a period of time the local resource
pool becomes limited and financial expectations are not met and the plan eventually
collapses.

Case Highlight Three
A client had contracted with a construction company to build a retaining wall with a four-
foot PVC guard rail according to approved plans by the Department of Planning. These
plans were approved in April 2006. The estimated price was $50,000. The final product
was a nine-foot wall with a four-foot concrete guard wall, not approved by Planning.
The client contacted this office when he was charged an extra $8,000 for the wall.
The contractor is demanding final payment and has alleged the client had requested
the changes. The client has denied any consent to the changes. On investigation it
was discovered that a submission was not made to the Department of Planning by
the contractor when the specifications were changed. Planning made a visit to the site
on 18 November 2008. The Senior Inspections Officer of Planning advised that when
plans are approved, not only is the safety of the plans taken into consideration, but also
the aesthetics of the final product. Consequently the wall has failed inspection. He had
stated the resolution maybe one of the following:

         a.    The wall will have to come down and be rebuilt according to prior
              approved plans.
         b.   The client can seek retroactive approval. However the cost will be six times
              more than the initial permit.

This case has highlighted the kind of cases this office receives and shows a clear
example of how Consumer Affairs works with other Government departments to achieve
resolution for client complaints.

Case Highlight Four
A client was given a loaner car by a dealership during the time her car was in for repairs
due to a collision with a taxi. About a week after having the loaner car the client’s son was
involved in a single vehicle collision and caused $3,500 worth of damage to the loaner
car. She was informed by the dealership that she would be responsible for the payment
of the repairs. Client called this office for advice. She stated when she was assigned
the loaner car she was not informed the car only had third party insurance and that she
would be responsible for the repairs payment. Client was asked if she had signed a form
and she replied yes, but it did not state on the form about the responsibility for payment.
When the dealership was contacted the Vice President of Customer Relations explained
when loaner cars are assigned to clients, they have to sign a Loaner Agreement. Point
four on the loaner agreement states “Customer is responsible for any damages incurred
to the vehicle while in their possession. (Car is under third party insurance). “The
agreement is reviewed with each client before they sign the agreement. The VP faxed
a copy of the signed agreement to this office. Client was contacted and informed she
would have to pay. This is a typical case where consumers will call Consumer Affairs to
help them out of their contractual responsibility when they have breached the contract
and are being held to the terms and conditions of the contract.

CLIENT SATISFACTION

Consumer Affairs receives regular feedback from clients who are satisfied with the
outcome of their cases. In some instances, Consumer Affairs has received notes of
gratitude even from those consumers who were unable to achieve the full redress they



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     were seeking, but whom now better understand their rights and responsibilities and are
     in a better position to avoid making the same mistakes again. Here are a few samples
     of some of comments from satisfied clients and members of the public

     “On June 6th of this year, I purchased a motorcycle from a local retailer. The following
     four months proved to be nothing but complete frustration, as the cycle cut out every
     single time it rained. I live in Southampton and I work in St. Georges, so having reliable
     transportation is vital in my line of work.

     To put a very frustrating and stressful story short, after four months I was receiving
     absolutely no real assistance from the owners of the company. They just continued to
     drag me along and offered no real interest in solving this problem. Out of pure frustration
     I came to Consumers Affairs. Please understand that I am not the kind of person to
     complain and would prefer to deal with problems myself, but I did not see any other
     alternative at this point.

     On the 8th of October, I had the privilege of meeting and speaking in person with one of
     your Enforcement Officers. He held an interview with me, and then proceeded to make
     enquiries on my behalf. I believe the results we achieved would never have occurred
     without his intervention.

     As a former business owner myself and a former Police officer, I know genuine customer
     service when I see it. I must tell you that in my opinion he not only did his job, but
     seemed to take a personal interest in my case, and listened to me when the owners
     of said business did not. That alone meant a lot. He displayed professionalism and
     I genuinely appreciated his help on this case. He is an asset to your business, and I
     would highly recommend his services to anybody I know with a genuine problem such
     as what I had to go through.

     My many thanks, and thanks again for the service that your office offers.” –Consumer
     Affairs client

     “I write to commend you for your excellent assistance in helping me secure compensation
     in a case of inaccurate advertising. As you see below, I was notified a month in advance
     that my booking of the Champagne Brunch at a local venue was accepted. Much to the
     disappointment of my wife and me, not a drop of champagne was served at this event. I
     then contacted Consumer Affairs and you were extremely helpful from the very beginning.
     Throughout the process, you were efficient, professional, fair-minded, and dependable.
     Thanks to your tireless efforts on our behalf, we eventually secured a full refund for this
     misleading notification. You are a credit to your Consumer Affairs Bureau and you should
     be most proud to have him as part of your team.” –Consumer Affairs client

     “You are amazing- you accomplished in two days what I have not been able to achieve
     in three months with this company.” –Consumer Affairs client

     “Even though the outcome did not meet my expectations you were upfront and honest
     with me throughout the whole process concerning my expectation level and what the
     realistic expectation should be.” –Consumer Affairs client

     “One thing I can always say about Consumer Affairs, a human answers the phone and
     it is done so in a polite professional manner and the staff always return phone calls.”
     –Consumer Affairs client




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 “I appreciate that you take the time to listen and explain things to me and help me even
when many times it has nothing to do with what you do, it makes me feel safe knowing
I can bring paper work to you and you will read it to me and help me follow through with
what needs to be done especially when other agencies ignore me and consider me a
nuisance.” –Consumer Affairs client

“Your professional manner and ability to get to the essence of the problem is to be
commended.” –Consumer Affairs client

“Your command of the law is amazing as a mediator you are able to accomplish what
others have been unable to do, I am indebted to you.” –Consumer Affairs client

TRENDS

Three disturbing trends became very prevalent during 2008. The first being the
illegal use of this office’s good name, by both consumers and retailers, as a threat
against each other to impose a desired outcome on the other. This practice is an offence
under the Consumer Protection Act 1999. Consumer Affairs believe that there are three
key factors which may cause this undesirable behaviour. The first is the restrictions
placed on product repair by the manufacturer, for example Sony products must be
returned to the manufacturer for all repairs and fault assessment, this process can take
up to four months plus costs of shipping. The second factor is the durability of products
made today; many appliances and e-products are not meant to be repaired or last for
years. And third is the poor customer service experienced. Both consumers and retailers
begin this process with a blame mentality which often becomes confrontational and
unreasonable with the core issue never getting addressed.

The second trend is the total lack of personal ownership consumer gives to their personal
debts. Many consumers knowingly enter into contracts for goods and services with
little regard to their ability to meet their monthly financial commitment. The attitude of
entitlement and the belief that businesses should write off their debt because they are
making money is rampant. These attitudes are most prevalent in the 20- to 30-year-old
age bracket. Being practical and buying only what one needs has been replaced with
expensive wants and personal image enhancements. One needs only to look at the
supply and demand within our marketplace; the increased number of designer shops,
luxury cars and e-toys available for a small population is staggering. Rent, electricity
and food have all become secondary instead of primary when it comes to paying bills.

The third trend is people’s willingness to lie and purposely mislead Consumer Affairs.
Lying to Consumer Affairs is an exercise in futility and a big time waster; Consumer
Affairs will investigate the accuracy of the facts given. Society’s moral compass of what
is right and wrong has been distorted to such an extent that it no longer views its actions
as having consequences that affect themselves and others. Consumer debt causes
prices to go up for goods and services. Demands for luxury items have placed the
practical consumer at a disadvantage as their needs are no longer being catered for and
deception and aggressive behaviour discourages entrepreneurship. And all these factors
cause businesses to re-think whether or not it is worth doing business in Bermuda.




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     EDUCATION
     DAVID LOPES MORNING RADIO PROGRAMME

     Enforcement Officer Rhonda Daniels leads a consumer information segment on the
     David Lopes morning radio programme on the last Thursday of every month. In 2008,
     the following topics were discussed:
          •	 Vehicle insurance policies: Maintaining your vehicle and how it can affect
               claims, premiums and future coverage
          •	 Boat repairs: Pitfalls to avoid when agreeing to repairs
          •	 Product recalls: The processes of a recall and how consumers can be proactive
               in ensuring the products they buy are safe
          •	 Disgruntled customers: Informing retailers how to not cave in to a disgruntled
               customer’s unreasonable demands in order to assure the retailer does not
               reinforce bad behaviour.
          •	 “Invitation to Treat”: Explaining the origin and meaning of the term “invitation to
               treat”, how it applies under civil law when consumers buy goods, the marked
               price is not the price they are entitled to pay.
          •	 Making complaints: Discussion of the issues enforcement officers face when
               investigating complaints for consumers, such as consumers not giving the
               correct information, inflating the complaint facts and leaving out pertinent
               information, unreasonable expectations, not following up on advice given and
               not accepting advice if no laws have been broken.
          •	 Double tipping: Discussion of the practice of giving gratuities to employees in
               the hospitality industry, the imposition on the consumer and how double tipping
               is considered an unfair business practice under the Consumer Protection Act
               1999.
          •	 Consumer responsibilities: Stressed the importance of consumers asking
               questions, keeping receipts and other documentation, getting written
               confirmation of decisions made by businesses if unable to make full payment
               and to never make assumptions about store policies and warranties.


     WEEKLY NEWSPAPER COLUMN

     Consumer Affairs maintains a strong public presence via its successful weekly
     Consumer Focus column in the Bermuda Sun, written by Education Officer Laura
     Semos throughout 2008. Consumer Focus topics included:
         •	 The rights and responsibilities of consumers and retailers regarding returning
             goods
         •	 The legalities of redeeming gift cards and gift certificates
         •	 Environmentally sustainable consumer practices
         •	 Monthly budgeting tips
         •	 Educating youth on their rights and responsibilities as consumers
         •	 Consumer responsibilities
         •	 Using reusable shopping bags rather than disposables
         •	 Legal, ethical and professional customer behaviours to adopt to get better
             customer service
         •	 How seniors can avoid being scammed
         •	 How seniors can protect their consumer rights
         •	 The importance of reading the fine print in contracts
         •	 Consumers’ legal rights when purchasing a secondhand vehicle
         •	 Maintaining and filtering water tank catchments system and conserving water
             in order to eliminate the need to purchase bottled water
         •	 Explanation of what organic food is, how it is certified and whether it is ‘better’
         •	 Importance of establishing service history for vehicles



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     •	   Explaining the concept of ‘invite to treat’
     •	   Reducing your grocery bill and household waste through sustainable
          consumption habits
     •	   Warning regarding Bisphenol A (BPA) an ingredient in polycarbonate plastics
     •	   Financial responsibilities of teens and cell phones
     •	   Considerations when buying and maintaining vehicles with reference to the
          Sale of Goods Act
     •	   Considerations when buying sunscreen with reference to the findings of new
          scientific data regarding chemical vs. mineral-based lotions
     •	   Product stewardship of electronics with reference to Works and Engineering
          pilot e-waste drop-off day
     •	   Environmentally-friendly consumer suggestions for Father’s Day gifts
     •	   Saving money and cutting back to compensate for rising fuel and grocery
          prices
     •	   The laws and norms regulating tipping
     •	   California’s Proposition 65 and issues surrounding labeling products for
          human safety
     •	   Food additives and ingredients to avoid when searching for healthy grocery
          products
     •	   Using energy consideration and management techniques to reduce residential
          fuel costs
     •	   Alternative energy systems FAQs
     •	   Explanation of facts from Consumer Affairs’ Annual Report
     •	   Resolving a dispute with a business through mediation or small claims court
          procedure
     •	   Dealing with debt and debt collection agencies
     •	   Biodiesel FAQs
     •	   Returning faulty products

     Consumer Affairs received public feedback on a number of its columns. The
     following illustrates a few responses.

PUBLIC FEEDBACK

The following statements are in response to the weekly Bermuda Sun Articles:

I agree with everything that you wrote. How about mentioning that there is another option
for those who want to limit their children’s cell phone bills – prepaid service? I think that
more people should be made aware of this option. I know that there are people who use
prepaid service to help their children understand the value of the cell phone. I have heard
of instances where a weekly top-up value on the cell phone has been added, and the
parent has told their child that they will have until the following week to use that value.
If the cell phone has no value on it after a few days, the child will not be able to use it
until the following week. Take care. Graham Maule (in response to Bermuda Sun
column published 30 May 2008 on reducing cell phone bills).

Hi Consumer Affairs, Thanks for the tips. I always use a travel agent to book my
trips, since they’re covered under TICA here in Canada. If anything happens to them,
TICA will cover the full cost, since they provide insurance to the consumer. Thanks,
Richard Rinyai ww.theprofessionalassistant.net (in response to Bermuda Sun
column published 17 October 2008 on fraudulent travel schemes).

Consumer Affairs, I found your article fresh and forward; thank you! We at EV World.
com are more and more optimistic about the ‘quiet revolution’ that is sweeping the
world and your article cannot help but make Bermudians far more enlightened
than many of your neighbours, including the US. We hope that as more and more
mainstream publications (such as yours) shed the light and help people understand



15
     what lies ahead we can all breath a little easier know that soon we will all have the
     chance to make a difference, not only by going ‘green’ whenever we do something
     as simple as driving to work, but also by keeping more and more of our money
     home instead of sending it abroad. It’s a win-win story and we thank you for
     helping to get the word out! Mike Brace (in response to Bermuda Sun column
     published 10 October 2008, on electric and hybrid cars in Bermuda).

     PRESENTATIONS

     Consumer Affairs staff gave four presentations to the public this year through the
     Community Education and Development Programme. The first presentation utilized
     Consumer Affairs generic course, teaching the ‘rights and responsibilities’ of consumers
     in the marketplace and it was offered at an eastern parish school.

     For the new course offerings for the fall term of the Programme, Consumer Affairs strived
     to increase consumer interest by splitting this course offering into three topics, each
     designed to attract specific consumer groups, and moving the course to a central parish
     school. By implementing these small changes enrollment for the new courses tripled
     from the enrollment numbers of the old course. The home renovation seminar was the
     most popular, with 17 participants signing up for it.

     The following courses were offered:

     •	 Consumer Affairs: Buying and Maintaining Your Vehicle
        Are you looking to or recently have purchased a new car, bike or boat? Protect your
        investment by learning what to consider before buying; how to maintain your warranty
        agreement and common complaints against service providers.

     •	 Consumer Affairs: Buying or Renovating Your Home:
        Are you considering purchasing or renovating an existing property? This seminar will
        provide information to ensure your investment is protected. It will cover topics such
        as: obtaining quotes from service providers, ordering and shipping, hiring industry
        professionals; contracts; billing and common complaints against service providers.

     •	 Consumer Affairs: The Smart Shopper:
        As a consumer, most of us have no idea of how the marketplace works. This course
        will guide through topics such as: refunds, returns and warranties; estimates versus
        quotes; sales contracts; defective products; recalled products; billing process; store
        policies; and common complaints against retailers and service providers.

     PAMPHLETS AND BOOKLETS

     Consumer Affairs has realized over the years how important informational booklets and
     pamphlets can be in educating consumers. Three topics were chosen for 2008.

     Consumer Guide to New Car Purchases

     Consumer Affairs has revised its highly popular “Consumer Guide to New Car Purchases”
     in order to include up-to-date information on cars presently being sold. The guide covers
     such topics as car complexities, catalytic converters, warranty, repair costs, customizing
     your vehicle plus many more topics. It will go to print in 2009 and will be available to
     the public at car dealerships, the Transport Control Department, the Bermuda Library,
     Consumer Affairs’ website and office.




16
Customer Service

The great majority of clients of Consumer Affairs require assistance from Enforcement
Officers in resolving disputes with retailers regarding issues that are not covered in the
Consumer Protection Act 1999, but rather customer service provisions. Therefore, in
November 2008, Consumer Affairs released a leaflet entitled “Customer Service: Are
your Expectations of Customer Service Realistic?” This leaflet utilizes the same design
and layout of other Consumer Affairs leaflets, but focuses on the many components of
good customer service that consumers expect but must realize are not legally required,
such as maintaining prices, sending invoices, reviewing contracts with you, posting
store policies, offering warranties, having a complaints resolution system in place,
and labeling products. This informational leaflet is designed to encourage consumers
to know their rights and responsibilities with regard to ensuring the customer service
provisions that they require and expect are in place before buying from a particular
retailer.

Construction Guide

Consumer Affairs is developing “A Bermudian Consumer’s Guide to Building or Renovating
Your Home”. The Guide includes information on professionals to consider using when
embarking on a construction project, the steps necessary to hire a contractor, the
components of a good contract, the Planning process and its requirements, obtaining
financing and construction insurance, environmental and energy conservation measures
to consider, how to file a complaint with retailers, service providers, and if necessary,
Consumer Affairs. As well, sample complaint letters are included. This Guide is meant
to serve as a comprehensive booklet for any consumer considering embarking on a
construction project, no matter the size. It will be going to print in 2009.


LEGISLATIVE INITIATIVES
Consumer Affairs and the Consumer Affairs Board continued their mandate of
ensuring consumer-friendly legislation. In 2008 we continued this work in joint
partnership with many different Ministries throughout Government.

Labelling

In 2008 the Health Department completed the drafting of the labelling legislation which
was circulated to Consumer Affairs for review and input. The legislation addresses those
concerns raised by the public and a variety of health risk issues. The time table for the
legislation to be forwarded on to Cabinet will be set by the Ministry of Health.

Amendments to the Electronic Transaction Act 1999 (ETA)

Consumer Affairs was invited to participate in a working group from both private and
Government sectors with a view to updating the ETA to better address today’s technology
environment.

The first meeting was held on 15 November 2006. Meetings were held on a monthly
basis at the host Ministry of Telecommunications and E-Commerce boardroom. Each
section of the Act was reviewed and compared with other international jurisdictions and
recommendations agreed.

The working group completed their review of the Act in December 2008. The Department
of E-Commerce will produce a completed report of the recommendations for the
Ministers’ review.




17
     Amendments to the Consumer Protection Act 1999

     To meet the ever changing needs of consumer protection the Board under took the task of
     amending the Act to broaden Consumer Affairs scope of enforcement. These amendments
     cover such areas as unfair service practices, financial scams unfair contract terms just
     to name a few.

     The amendments are in the drafting stages.

     Amendments to the Landlord and Tenant Act 1974

     On 13 November 2008 a cross-Ministry meeting was held concerning the plight of
     boarders living in boarding house. It was agreed that the Landlord and Tenant Act be
     amended to address their plight by bestowing on them all the rights and privileges of a
     tenant under the Act. The task of writing the amendments was given to Consumer Affairs
     who circulated the proposed amendments in December.

     Feedback was received and Consumer Affairs will produce a final draft.


     STAFFING
     Following 14 months of service with Consumer Affairs as Education Officer, Laura Semos
     secured the position of Treaty Advisor with Ministry of Finance Headquarters.

     TRAINING and CONFERENCES

     Consumer Affairs is committed to ensuring that its employees continue to upgrade and
     enforce their skills and attend the conferences and workshops where they can learn from
     those in their field.

     In February 2008, Heather Marshall attended the BEC course, Franklin Covey – Achieving
     Your Highest Potential. She learned new skills, including how to deal with needless
     interruptions, being able to say no, and how to use tools such as Microsoft Outlook to
     organize the workday to get maximum results, all of which were invaluable to her job
     as Administrative Assistant.

     In March 2008, Laura Semos attended a full-day course on Creating Effective Web Content,
     provided by Project Performance Corporation for the Department of E-Government. At this
     course, she learned tips on writing for your audience, maximizing a site’s navigation and
     determining actionable items Consumer Affairs needed to provide on its new website.

     In April 2008, Karen Marshall and Laura Semos attended the 5th Biennial Regional
     Conference of the Caribbean Ombudsman Association (CAROA), this year’s theme being
     Foundations of Good Governance: Sharing Best Practices. Of particular importance to
     Consumer Affairs were presentations on the value of systemic investigations to small
     offices presented by the Special Ombudsman Response Team, Ombudsman Ontario.

     In May 2008, Laura Semos, attended project management training by BEC. Key concepts
     learned included assigning adequate time and effort to initiating processes and planning
     processes of project. As well, Laura Semos attended Drafting Cabinet Memoranda at the
     Department of Human Resources.

     In July 2008, Marc Drew attended the North American Consumer Protection Investigators’
     (NACPI) Annual Conference in New Orleans. Presentations were given by leading experts
     in consumer matters. Networking led to many positive connections, and a transfer of



18
information concerning methodology in responding to cases. Marc Drew was appointed
Deputy Director of the Eastern Region. As an appointed Director, one role of the position
is to help promote the organization and its 2009 conference in Miami by contacting
several regions in North America including other Caribbean island consumer agencies
to establish a network.

Between 15 and 26 September 2008, Enforcement Officer Rhonda Daniels attended
a two-week work shadowing period with the Surrey County Council Trading Standards
Office in Leatherhead, Surrey, UK. During that time she worked with the Trading Standards
Officers while they investigated reports of rogue traders, fraud and underage sales of
alcohol by local merchants, seized counterfeit goods from local flea markets, processed
cases in Magistrates’ Courts, inspected petrol stations for health and safety compliance
and gathered and prepared witness statements.

In October 2008 Marc Drew attended the Advanced Negotiation Skills course offered by
the Department of Human Resources – Training Section. The course detailed ‘principled’
negotiations as developed by the Harvard Negotiation Program in 1982. The course
provided valuable information required for the daily negotiations and mediations of the
Consumer Affairs Enforcement Officer.


MISSION AND ENFORCEMENT
OUR MISSION

Consumer Affairs will strive for excellence by carrying out its mandate with the
highest standards of integrity, efficiency and service to individuals and to commercial,
professional and governmental organizations. We will ensure the rights of consumers
to fair trade practices, product safety and redress by maintaining an international
viewpoint, a spirit of partnership through collaboration, information sharing and, where
necessary, enforcement.

OUR MOTTO

Promoting Confident Consumers and Responsible Traders

OUR BOARD

The Consumer Affairs Board officially meets once a month and Board sub-committees
meet once a week in order to fulfill their charges under Part II, Section 4 of the Consumer
Protection Act 1999.

The functions of the Board are:

• To preserve and protect the rights of consumers and, in particular, to keep business
  practices under review, to regulate product safety, to ensure the provision of adequate
  information to the consumer and to monitor the timeliness of repairs and other services.

• To advise the Minister on any consumer protection matter referred to the Board by the
  Minister, or which the Board itself considers ‘worthy’ of attention.

• To conduct research on consumer matters, and to educate the public by the
production and distribution of information on the rights of consumers and better
business practices.

• To use its good offices informally to conciliate and settle consumer complaints and
  grievances.



19
     • To encourage businesses to adhere to better business practices.

     • To advise on the issue of orders or notices relating to safety or unfair business practices.

     • To keep the working of the Act under review and, where required by the Minister, or as
       the Board itself considers appropriate, submit proposals for its amendment.

     OUR RESPONSIBILITY

     Consumer Affairs has specific responsibilities under the Consumer Protection Act
     1999. They are as follows:

     A. To ensure that ‘unfair business practices’ and ‘unconscionable
     acts’ are not prevalent in everyday consumer business transactions.

     Under Part III, Section 11, the following examples would be considered unfair
     business practices, under the Act:

     • Representations that goods or services have sponsorship, approval, performance
       characteristics, accessories, uses, ingredients, benefits or quantities they do not have;

     • A representation that products can be used in ways materially different from those for
       which they were designed;

     • A representation that a service, part replacement or repair is needed, if it is not;
     • A representation that a specific price advantage exists, if it does not.

     The following would be considered unconscionable acts:

     • Taking advantage of a consumer who is unable to protect his own interest because of
       physical infirmity, ignorance, illiteracy, or inability to understand the language of an
       agreement;

     • Devising a transaction that is excessively one-sided in favour of someone other than
       the consumer.

     B. To ensure product safety.

     Under Part IV, Section 20 – 22 Of the Act; product safety is subject to, but not limited to,
     the following:

     • Consumer goods that fail to comply with the general safety requirements of its place
       of origin;

     • Consumer goods that fail to comply with the general safety requirements if they are not
       reasonably safe, having regard to all the circumstances;

     • The Minister may make safety regulations containing such provision, as he considers
       appropriate, for the purpose of ensuring that consumer goods are safe.
     OUR RESPONSIBILITY
     OUR ENFORCEMENT

     Under Part V, Section 27 through 32 of the Act, Consumer Affairs has the powers of
     investigation, orders of enforcement and prosecution. Consumer Affairs also have
     enforcement powers under section 135 of the Copyright and Design Act 2004;
     and monitoring service providers to ensure that they adhered to The Supply of
     Services (Implied Terms) Act 2003 provision of reasonable care and skill;
     reasonable time and reasonable charge.

20
                    129 Front Street, Hamilton HM 12
                      Telephone (441) 297-7627
                      Facsimile (441) 295-6892
                          consumers@gov.bm
                            www.ca.gov.bm

Promoting Confident Consumers & Responsible Traders

           Published by the Ministry of Culture and Social Rehabilitation
  Design and pre-press production: Department of Communication and Information
                      Printed in Bermuda by Bermuda Press

				
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