Ahead of the passing of the Virgin Islands 'Consumer Protection Act, 2020' last evening June 8, 2020, in the House of Assembly (HoA), Opposition Leader Hon Marlon A. Penn urged legislators to advance Fair-trade legislation with the aim of protecting local businesses.
'We have to ensure that there is a fair and levelled playing field in the consumer markets, in the business arena," he told legislators during the Eighth Sitting of the Second Session of the Fourth House of Assembly (HoA) at the Save the Seed Energy Centre in Duff's Bottom, Tortola.
With regards to the VI, Hon Penn said currently wholesalers are still competing with the retailers for the same market and selling the same products which can be uncompetitive.
Legislative Framework to protect businesses
"That can't lend itself to unfair competition, you need a legislative framework to be able to guard against that type of behaviour and ensuring that there is no unfair competitive advantage to persons who are trying to survive in the business market," he said.
He added that the United States, as big as its economy is, has measures in place to ensure businesses are protected in that economic environment.
"We in the BVI as a small economy, also have to be very careful... how we allow big businesses to come into our Territory, how we allow them to set up shop in the BVI and manage and understand the implications of those businesses operating within our economic environment," he said.
Watch out for big businesses - Hon Penn
Pointing to large global companies like Amazon, an online retailer, and its ability to use economies of scale to gain a competitive advantage over small business, Hon Penn said the Territory should be aware.
"We already have the advent of the Amazons of the world, and what Amazon has done in terms of its impact on small businesses functioning within an environment."
Hon Penn said the balance is not to restrict the free market from having variety, rather, examining the impacts that large companies can have on grassroot businesses that drive the economy.
He called for education of the population on how consumer behaviour can sometimes impact the local economy.
"We also have to help our businesses to step up their game as well to be able to be innovative, [and] to offer the variety," Hon Penn said.