The Dominican Republic, through the National Institute for the Protection of Consumer Rights (Pro Consumidor), assumed this Thursday the presidency of the Ibero-American Forum of Government Consumer Protection Agencies (Fiagc), for the period 2023-2024, in a ceremony held in this capital, which was attended by the vice president of the Republic, Raquel Peña, and other important authorities of a score of countries that make up the international organization.
The executive director of Pro Consumidor, Dr. Eddy Alcántara, was sworn in as president of the regional entity by the outgoing head of said body, Lucila Bueti, from Argentina, within the framework of the XVII Ibero-American Forum of Governmental Consumer Protection Agencies, which is being held in the country from November 1 to 4, he thanked his counterparts of the Consumer Protection Council of Central America and the Dominican Republic (Concadeco), of which he is also president, as well as those of the Fiagc, “for having set their sights on this side of the Caribbean”.
“Thank you for making one more citizen of the Dominican Republic, your main representative in these agencies of regional importance and with global characteristics, so that, being the face of these countries, we can as a single body, draw the necessary guidelines and directives in order to strengthen the rights of all consumers in the region,” he added.
The official affirmed that he will assume the commitment to continue developing a connoted agenda in an attempt to place in the international spotlight the claims of the Ibero-American countries, “that will convince the consumer protection organizations of greater hierarchy and representativeness to be part of the wills added by us to protect and guarantee the rights of approximately 64 million citizens that live in the countries of Central America and the Dominican Republic”.
In this regard, the head of Pro Consumidor pledged to develop the agenda on three central issues of interest and topicality for Fiagc member countries regarding e-commerce, misleading advertising and the impact of prices and inflation.
He said that with regard to e-commerce, it is urgent to move towards actions to address the problems related to digital commerce, such as confirming the veracity of information on products and supplies, including platforms, the security of products sold online and the resolution of cross-border disputes.
Regarding misleading advertising he emphasized that it is necessary to protect consumers from this malpractice, especially the most vulnerable groups.
Alcántara said on the impact of prices and inflation, it is important to address and monitor the costs of food and other inputs of the basic basket, as well as medicines and transportation “in order to make comparisons and draw conclusions to help guide public policies”.
During the conclave, he said that other relevant issues that he will address as president of the Fiagc, will be to strengthen ties with the Ibero-American General Secretariat, in order to work so that consumer protection is added to the agenda of the issues that this regional body addresses on a regular basis.
She also indicated that she will present a common position to UNCTAD’s Intergovernmental Group of Experts on Consumer Protection, in order to make progress on the issue of electronic commerce “and to develop mechanisms for the effective resolution of cross-border conflicts between suppliers and consumers”.
The Vice President of the Republic, on behalf of President Luis Abinader, welcomed to the Dominican Republic all the representatives of government consumer protection agencies from Ibero-American countries present at the forum, which for the first time is being held in a Caribbean country.
“I consider it appropriate to begin my remarks by emphasizing that, for the Dominican Republic, represented by Pro Consumidor, in the person of its executive director, Eddy Alcántara, assuming the presidency of the Fiagc, is a valuable opportunity to continue working to strengthen mechanisms for coordination and collaboration with its regional peers,” he said.
Vice President Raquel Peña indicated that the current administration, led by President Abinader, “is guided by the values of honesty, transparency and public service. In the latter, the commitment to consumer protection is a priority”.
For us as a country,” he continued, “it is very relevant to hold events as important as these, which promote cooperation between government consumer protection agencies in Ibero-America, through the exchange of experiences on issues of common interest.
“Forums like this allow us to see opportunities for improvement in each challenge, to work together as a region, in the mission to improve the consumer environment and ensure consumer confidence,” she added.
Raquel Peña stressed that “such is the importance we attribute to these meetings for governments and regional integration, that President Abinader is currently in the United States, where he will participate in meetings with other heads of state members of the Alliance for Economic Prosperity in the Americas (APEP)”.
Finally, he said that consumer protection “is a global priority and, in order to continue advancing on this issue, cooperation and the exchange of information between countries are fundamental”.
Ramon Pérez Fermín, Vice-Minister of the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Mypimes, also spoke at the opening ceremony, expressing the importance of forums such as these, and said that, above and beyond academic exercises of great value, they should have the vocation of collectively promoting regional initiatives in defense of consumers.
“The task of protecting and guaranteeing the rights of consumers is and must be shared, joint, so that all, absolutely all the efforts we make to strengthen our region in this topic, is not only necessary, but an unavoidable obligation”, he added.
Pérez Fermín also referred to e-commerce, one of the topics to be discussed at the forum, stating that in the Dominican Republic online commerce has registered continuous growth, largely due to the change in consumption patterns and habits of the new generation of consumers, who are increasingly accustomed to using the Internet for information and shopping.
“The growth of e-commerce is closely linked to the development and diffusion of new information technologies, as well as telecommunications infrastructures. In this sense, the country has made significant progress in the development of digital skills in the population and in the use of the Internet, where more than 86% of the connected population already occupies the 5th place in Internet penetration when put in contrast with the countries of Central and South America,” he said.
Outgoing Fiagc President
In her speech in which she handed over the presidency of the Fiagc to the head of Pro Consumidor, the representative of Argentina, Lucila Bueti, emphasized that the new consumer habits represented and represent an enormous challenge for the authorities of the region, and the Forum is a space for exchange and inspiration to address them, “a scenario of dialogue and cooperation, focused on consumers and that promotes the development of public policies to ensure and protect their rights”.
Bueti stated that in its 2022-2023 presidency, they proposed to strengthen ties with other regions and international organizations, expanding participation and promoting joint activities”.
“We can mention among them, the dialogue to deepen ties with the Ibero-American General Secretariat (SEGIB); the organization of the COMPAL Forum at the end of 2022 together with UNCTAD; the participation of representatives of the OAS during the XVI (sixteenth) FIAGC Forum; the virtual seminar that we coordinated together with Mercosur, with a focus on consumer protection against over-indebtedness; or recently, the organization, together with the Spanish government, of the FIAGC-EU Summit, in which, in addition to consumer protection authorities, representatives of Latin American and European civil society participated”, he said.
It is recalled that Dr. Eddy Alcántara was elected unanimously and by acclamation, with the favorable vote of all the countries that make up the Ibero-American Forum of Government Consumer Protection Agencies, thus becoming the first time that a Caribbean nation receives the distinction of being chosen as the main head to lead this important international body.
The inaugural ceremony of the forum was attended by the heads of government consumer protection agencies from some twenty countries, as well as representatives of international organizations such as the Organization of American States (OAS), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD-UN), the Competition and Consumer Protection Program in Latin America (COMPAL), among other authorities that make up the Fiagc.
Also present were members of the Board of Directors of Pro Consumidor, headed by its president, Ramón Pérez Fermín; the president of the Senate, Ricardo de los Santos; Senator Eduardo Estrella, as well as officials from different government institutions, including the executive director of the Dominican Accreditation Agency (ODAC), Ángel David Taveras Difó; the director of the Dominican Institute for Quality (Indocal), Lorenzo Ramírez; the general director of Passports, Digna Reynoso, among others.
Also, former directors of the consumer protection agency, among them, Altagracia Paulino; representatives of wholesalers, retailers, consumer associations, among others.