NCA: Need a reminder?

According to a recent newspaper story “the National Consumer Association is trying desperately to revive interest in the organization.”
Marius Modeste, evidently the NCA’s public relations officer, is quoted as saying, with reference to an October 23 general meeting “to discuss serious issues affecting the organization and consumers generally,” that the gathering was an important “effort to sustain and further enhance the role of the association.”
Modeste also revealed the association is faced with “a number of challenges it cannot tackle due to its inactive membership.”
He acknowledged the organization had experienced a number of problems over the years, among them: “We tried to get an office but we do not have the funds. And we don’t have the funds because we do not have the membership . . . We depend on the government sometimes . . . but if we have our members and our members pay their dues every year, we can go ahead with the work of the organization.”
By all I gathered from a message delivered by current president Raphael St. Hill to mark World Consumer Rights Day on March 15, last year, the NCA had its inaugural meeting on March 3, 2002—when well known activist on all fronts Andrew Antoine was still president. In his own 2011 address St. Hill seemed to concentrate on the achievements of the U.S.-based Bureau of Consumer Protection, whose mandate is “to protect consumers against unfair or deceptive acts or practices in commerce.”
With the written consent of the Federal Trade Commission, headed by five commissioners who are nominated by the President and confirmed by the United States Senate (under the FTC Act, no more than three commissioners may be from the same political party!) bureau attorneys enforce federal laws related to consumer affairs and rules promulgated by the FTC.
Its functions include investigations, enforcement actions, and consumer and business education. “Areas of principal concern for this bureau are: advertising and marketing, financial products and practices, telemarketing fraud, privacy and identity protection . . .”
Under the FTC Act, the Commission has the authority, in most cases, to bring its actions in federal court through its own attorneys. In some consumer protection matters, the FTC appears with, or supports, the U.S. Department of Justice.
In short the FTC is the American consumer’s protection agency. The FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection works for the consumer to prevent fraud, deception and unfair business practices in the marketplace. It enhances consumer confidence by enforcing federal laws that protect consumers. It empowers consumers with free information to help them exercise their rights and spot and avoid fraud and deception.
Clearly the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection should not be confused with Saint Lucia’s National Consumer Association that clearly depends for its existence on already handicapped members who must pay annual dues. As Modeste rightly observed, no members totals to no dues. No power to act. Its presidents in such circumstances are rendered little more than spouters of hot air. Toothless mongrels.
For crying out loud, there isn’t even a law related to the NCA, a law that might give it teeth whether of rubber. The president and his PRO, as far as I can tell, may well be the NCA’s only members. Something reminiscent of the evidently now comatose political party once known as ONE—Organization for National Empowerment.
But seriously, dear reader, why should anyone wish to be a dues-paying member of a group with no legal standing, unable to pay its own rent, let alone afford lawyers?
No surprise, then, that the NCA’s current president has now taken to shilling for VAT, which clearly he knows little about. At any rate, no more than the average bear.
In a recent conversation, he revealed to me that he (I almost say his organization) collects annually from the government (taxpayers!) $18,000. He alone knows what he spends it on. Or whether he is accountable to anyone. Does he submit audited accounts to the government? I have no way of knowing.
Recently, the NCA’s president was on TV, bold as brass, accusing “those who oppose VAT” of being the same people “who owe the government millions and millions of dollars.” As if to underscore the point, he added, “especially those hotels that have been getting away with not paying for years and years and now will not be able to get away.” Why have they been getting away? Who allowed them to?
In any case, who could Raphael St. Hill be talking about? How responsible are such statements? Where did he get his information? He makes no secret of the fact that he supports a particular party.
So is he shilling for VAT in the hope the government might increase his NCA subsidy? Is it any wonder that consumers do not trust such groups as operated by Raphael St Hill, a retired public servant, with a truckload of chips on his shoulders? To hear him on Newsspin, you’d think the worst thing for Saint Lucia is for self-supported local entrepreneurs, native or foreign, to be successful in business!
Certainly, consumers are entitled to protection from fraudsters. From bad employers too, not to mention tax-funded imposters. But is that not why we elect governments? To protect our lives and property and our consumer rights?
More on that later!

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