A recent study has shown that customers have sometimes been short modified when shopping in supermarkets and markets, while businesses were found to have underpriced items in other instances.
Nevertheless, Minister of Energy and Business Development, Kerrie Symmonds doesn’t imagine situations through which customers received lower than they paid for were generally intentional.
He spoke in regards to the study conducted by the Barbados National Standards Institute (BNSI), which highlighted several instances of consumers either overpaying or underpaying for goods at several businesses, supermarkets and markets across the island, as he led off debate within the House of Assembly on the Barbados Metrology Bill, 2022 on Tuesday.
He said the BNSI checked several products including sugar, bottled water, weighed food, potatoes, chicken and fish.
In a single case, a fish vendor gave a customer greater than two kilos less fish than what was paid for.
“This type of thing can occur by mistake, but allow us to attempt to eradicate the mistakes and, for heaven’s sake, allow us to ensure that that it doesn’t occur by design, because in every instance where we now have a consumer buying a product at a hard and fast price after which getting a product that’s 103 or 104 grammes difference then that consumer has been disadvantaged,” Symmonds said.
“The associated fee of living for that consumer is already high and that consumer out-of-pocket is critical and that comes at a private consequence for the buyer and the buyer’s family. The buyer’s disposable income just isn’t inelastic,” he stressed.
Nevertheless, the Minister said he didn’t imagine it was deliberate on the a part of the companies as there have been clear instances where consumers were getting greater than they paid for.
“There’s a transparent case of chaos within the private sector with regard to how these matters are handled. I don’t attribute . . . mischief and malice on this because in some cases the private enterprises are working to their very own detriment.
“But what is evident that’s failing to occur is that you simply shouldn’t have properly calibrated instruments of measurement and that in some instances it really works to the detriment of the business person because he’s selling something and considering he’s getting ‘x’ amount of cash for it when really and truly he’s shorting himself and putting himself at a drawback position,” Symmonds said.
He maintained that the calibration of instruments was due to this fact critical to making sure fairness to all parties.
Symmonds said the new laws would strengthen the ability of the buyer and the flexibility of the State to guard the buyer, prevent the seepage of cash, and address economic inefficiencies.
Nevertheless, he said the Bill can be “postponed for further consideration” as he believed it raised issues that customers and the business sector would “wish to have a say in”.
The Minister said while there have already been preliminary consultations, further discussions would happen with stakeholders, including the Barbados Association of Retailers, Vendors and Entrepreneurs, the Small Business Association, the Barbados Manufacturers’ Association, the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the Barbados Private Sector Association.
Symmonds also disclosed that a National Quality Policy can be created to “construct out standards of operation and standards of service across Barbados.”