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Consumer Group Calls For Changes to Law

March 23, 2007

Sunday was World Consumer Rights Day, and one group seized the occasion to call for reforms to Costa Rica’s Law for the Promotion of Competition and Consumer Defense.

This law, which went into effect in 1996, fails to adequately protect the Costa Rican public, according to Erick Ulate, president of the organization Consumers of Costa Rica.

All consumer complaints must be presented to the Ministry of Economy, Industry and Commerce (MEIC), and processing them takes an unnecessarily long time, Ulate said, explaining that his organization is proposing reforms to the law that would create a separate government office to handle consumer issues.

His group has cases that have been pending with the ministry for as long as two years.

“The slowness of this process worries me because our organization is presenting cases that affect the community in general,” he said.

Ulate’s group has drafted a bill that would reform the existing law to better protect consumers’ rights and is pushing for the Economy Ministry to present it before the Legislative Assembly during the extraordinary session now under way. Several legislators have also expressed interest in presenting the law in case the ministry doesn’t come through, he said.

Also in honor of World Consumer Rights Day, representatives from the Economy Ministry were at the CulturePlaza Sunday to give citizens information about how to protect their rights.

Last year, 27,300 people filed complaints before the ministry, 18,000 of them regarding a failure to comply with guarantees or contracts for cell phones, home appliances, vehicles, houses, clothes and other goods, according to the daily La Nación.

On average, 60-80% of complaints the ministry receives are resolved by phone between businesses and consumers. If this fails, these parties enter a process of intermediation and then proceed to the National Consumers’ Commission if the complaint is still not resolved, La Nación reported.

Consumers can report complaints to the ministry at 800-266-7866, and more information is available at www.consumo.go.cr

 

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