by Lic. Veizant Boloy
In shops in the capital where they sell things for foreign currency, they offered various food products and things for the home at reduced price, which pleased the people living there. Jams, packets of biscuits, boxes of caramel powder, packets of fried tomatoes, custard, alarm clocks, and other things costing no more than one CUC (Cuban Convertible Peso).
Both customers and retailers took advantage of the discounts and bought as much as they could afford. “This is a bargain,” said one of the retailers.
The vast numbers of customers didn’t spot the flaw. Some, who took the precaution of turning the product over to note the expiry date, read the information: best before the month of August 2012. Others didn’t notice this until they got home.
The shop assistants told them to try the products, but they wouldn’t accept any returns. The nonsense was that, in the case of the clocks, they didn’t have any batteries so you couldn’t try them. In various parts of Havana there are shops which are skilled in selling faulty products, but this wasn’t the case here. These products had passed their sell-by date and others were just useless.
Selling date-expired food to people constitutes a commercial and public health offence. The offence is the greater when most of the consumers of the jams are children.
The consumer’s rights are set out in the regulations issued by the public authorities intended to protect purchasers or users in the market of goods and services, which bestow and regulate certain rights and duties.
In spite of the fact that the consumer’s rights are not an independent branch of the law, fundamental aspects of the relationship between producers and consumers are to be found in Commercial Law, Civil Law; others in Administrative Law and also Procedural Law.
In Cuba, there are legal regulations which protect the purchaser’s rights, but they are not heeded. The inspectors look the other way. The people are on the whole unaware of their rights, and, in a time of scarcity, accept these infringements of their rights as consumers.
The best advice to Cuban consumers is to check before you buy. And insist on it.
Translated by GH
January 3 2013