Equal protection of consumers from exploitative practices and sellers from unscrupulous hirers is guaranteed with the passage of the Hire Purchase Bill of 2020.
Minister of Tourism, Industry and Commerce, Oneidge Walrond presented the bill for its second reading to the National Assembly on Wednesday. The bill was subsequently adopted and passed by the House.
Minister Walrond informed the House that the bill benefitted from widespread consultations which were conducted with stakeholders interested in the hire purchase sector.
Twenty-seven (27) of the 30 clauses were amended, ensuring a balanced framework to protect consumers as well as vendors.
“It is of some importance Mr. Speaker that I say that the Bill seeks to level the playing field and not to distort it. We [government] were mindful of and determined to avoid replacing a regime that substantially disadvantaged the buyer with one that disadvantaged the seller,” Minister Walrond explained.
Recognising that consumers enter hire purchase agreements without informed consideration of their ability to pay; Clause (10) provides for a seven-day “cooling off” period, whereby the consumer, who had the benefit of more informed consideration may cancel the agreement.
In Clause 13, it provides for a buyer who cancels an agreement to recover any monies paid under that agreement, subject to a restocking fee charged by a seller to a maximum of 10 per cent.
“Once again Mr. Speaker we see this recurring theme of balancing the protection of buyer and seller,” the Tourism Minister emphasised.
Clause 14 makes provision for a buyer who has two or more agreements with any seller, to apportion payments between or amongst the agreements.
“This is especially useful where a buyer may experience some temporary difficulty in meeting payments. Conceivably he or she could avoid default completely on one agreement while making partial payment on the others,” she said.
In addition, Clause 15 makes certain arrangements in respect of agreements concerning vehicles.
This Clause requires the Guyana Revenue Authority to make an annotation on the registration of a Vehicle indicating that the said vehicle is the subject of a hire purchase agreement. This annotation would put a potential buyer on notice that there is an encumbrance on the vehicle.
The culture of repossessing items from consumers by sellers will be discounted as Clause 29 will prohibit the seller from repossessing goods without first approaching the court and obtaining an order if 70 per cent or more of the purchase price has been paid.
In the instance whereby less than 70 per cent of the purchase price has been paid, the seller is obliged to give 21 days’ notice of an intent to repossess the items. This will allow the buyer to cure the breach.
Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha commended the bill and noted that it will have a significant impact on the agriculture sector.
“This will allow our farmers to confidently invest in high-value assets to improve their production as hire purchase will now be seen by many farmers as a financial solution for expanding the agriculture business,” Minister Mustapha stated.
The Hire Purchase Bill was also supported by Minister within the Housing and Water Ministry, Susan Rodrigues, Labour Minister, Joseph Hamilton and Member of Parliament, Sanjeev Datadin.