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Reflections on Consumer Law and Policy in Seychelles

Abstract

Consumerism only reached Seychelles after a wave of market-liberalization reforms adopted in 2008 as a response to a dire economic crisis. Consumer law is therefore only a recent phenomenon in the country. The main sources of inspiration for Seychelles legislation are the UN Guidelines on Consumer Protection, the EU Directive on unfair contract terms, and the South African Consumer Protection Act. Policy initiatives tend to be modelled either on other small island countries or on Commonwealth countries. The formal legal framework is overall modern and in line with international guidelines. However, the article identifies two sets of challenges encountered in practice. First, local standardization efforts fail to address the matter of poor-quality products entering the market, and this lack of local capacity is insufficiently complemented by reliance on international standards. Secondly, consumers seldom rely on the adjudicatory mechanism provided by consumer laws and informal settlement mechanisms are preferred, which comes at the cost of depriving consumer law operatives of precious interpretative materials, leaving areas of legal uncertainty. While policy guidance from the political sphere would be needed, it is unclear how much attention consumer matters will receive in the medium term.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Data estimates on population produced by the United Nations portal UNDATA—A World of Information, available at http://data.un.org/CountryProfile.aspx?crName=SEYCHELLES#Top (last accessed 15 April 2018)

  2. 2.

    Seychelles was initially settled by the French in 1770, and the first laws were enacted in 1788. By 1810, the region (including the larger island of Mauritius) capitulated to the British who had fought vigorously over the Western Indian Ocean islands for the control of the route between India and the Cape. Independence was gained on 29 June 1976 (Twomey 2013).

  3. 3.

    The University of Seychelles has been offering the University of London International Programme LLB since 2010.

  4. 4.

    The latest and most comprehensive work on Seychelles law is the published version of the PhD thesis of the Chief Justice of the Seychelles Supreme Court Dr. Mathilda Twomey, Legal Métissage in a Micro-Jurisdiction: the Mixing of Common Law and Civil Law in Seychelles (2017), Journal de Droit Comparé di Pacific, Collection “Ex Professo” Volume VI. Another valuable source is Jessica Kerr, “Finding the Law in Seychelles” (2015) GlobaLex, available at http://www.nyulawglobal.org/globalex/Seychelles.html (last accessed 15 April 2018).

  5. 5.

    In the recent decision François Octobre vs The Government of Seychelles [2016] SCSC 941, the Supreme Court of Seychelles stated that the consistent use of English negligence cases, such as Bolam v Friern Hospital Management Committee (1957)1 WLR 582, by Seychelles courts to found medical liability is “an aberration and must be disregarded.”

  6. 6.

    All Seychelles legislation and case law referred to in this article can be accessed through the Seychelles Legal Information Institute (SeyLII) at www.seylii.org.

  7. 7.

    The AG’s office in Seychelles bears a number of different responsibilities, including in particular prosecution and legislative drafting. Due to limited capacity and very limited human resources, it is not uncommon for State Counsels to take on drafting duties.

  8. 8.

    Details of Seychelles’ Accession Procedure to WTO are available at https://www.wto.org/english/thewto_e/acc_e/a1_seychelles_e.htm (last accessed 15 April 2018).

  9. 9.

    In the second round of the 2015 presidential election, the incumbent James Michel (of Parti Lepep) faced Wavel Ramkalawan (candidate of the LDS coalition) and managed to beat him by the smallest of margins (less than 200 votes). LDS contested the results on two grounds. First, an interpretation of the constitution and of the electoral law—specifically on the meaning of the words “votes cast”— with the intent to show that Mr. Michel had not in fact received the majority of votes cast but only of valid votes. The court dismissed the petition on the grounds that votes cast and valid votes have to be interpreted as equivalent expressions. Secondly, LDS claimed there were irregularities in the electoral process (bullying of voters by Parti Lepep activists, multiple voting by same voters, buying of identity cards by Parti Lepep). The court, while satisfied that some irregularities indeed took place, found in favor of the incumbent and upheld the election’s result on the grounds that the petitioner had failed to meet the burden of proof—there was insufficient evidence that the irregularities had an impact on the final result, and insufficient evidence to trace those irregularities back to the incumbent himself. See Ramkalawan v Electoral Commission and Ors (Valid votes) (CP 07/2015) [2016] SCCC 10 (31 May 2016), and Ramkalawan v Electoral Commission and Ors (Election non-compliance and illegal practices) (CP 01/2016) [2016] SCCC 11 (31 May 2016), available at https://www.seylii.org/courtnames/constitutional-court/2016 (last accessed 15 April 2018).

  10. 10.

    A repository of the Board’s decisions is available at http://ftc.sc/index.php/board-of-commissioners (last accessed 15 April 2018).

  11. 11.

    Other than the SBSA these include: the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Act, No 2 of 2000; the Energy Act, No 11 of 2012; and the Financial Services Authority Act, No 19 of 2013.

  12. 12.

    More information on the Bureau is available at http://www.sbs.sc (last accessed 15 April 2018).

  13. 13.

    The five mandatory standards are the following: (i) SS9:1991—Rev.3:2005 (S.I.38:2005)—Specification for Concrete Blocks; (ii) SS11:1991—Rev.2:2005 (AMD.1:2006)—Specification for Periodic Inspection and testing of refillable gas cylinders; (iii) SS23:1994—Rev.1:2004 (S.I.20 of 2004)—Specification for Toilet Soap; (iv) SS33:19994—Rev.1:1999 (S.I.34 of 1999)—Specification for modified UHT and modified pasteurised skimmed, partly skimmed and full cream milk; (v) SS54:1999 (S.I. 53 of 1999)—Specification for Seychelles Time.

  14. 14.

    An overview is available at https://www.ccpc.ie/consumers/shopping/ (last accessed 15 April 2018).

  15. 15.

    The Charter, developed in 2010, is available at http://www.ftc.gov.bb/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=178 (last accessed 15 April 2018).

  16. 16.

    The list of individual explanations is available at http://jftc.gov.jm/tips-advice/for-consumers/ (last accessed 15 April 2018).

  17. 17.

    The Consumer Information Leaflets are available at http://www.mccaa.org.mt/en/publications (last accessed 15 April 2018).

  18. 18.

    The enforcement criteria of the New Zealand Commerce Commission are available at http://www.comcom.govt.nz/the-commission/commission-policies/enforcement-criteria/ (last accessed 15 April 2018).

  19. 19.

    A Medicines Bill, modeled after its South African equivalent, was submitted to the Attorney General’s Office in May 2015, but it is yet to be presented to the Cabinet for approval.

  20. 20.

    The topic was discussed in various interviews, including one with an FTC Market Analyst who is in the process of finalising a study suggesting that the reasons for the low success of voluntary standards are the reduced dimensions of the market and the ensuing relatively small competition. There is no incentive to adopt standards and endure the cost of meeting them if this is to have little or no impact on sales.

  21. 21.

    Interviews with FTC Compliance Officer and Customs Officers

  22. 22.

    FTC compulsory recall notices are available at http://ftc.sc/index.php/consumer-protection (last accessed 15 April 2018).

  23. 23.

    This has been recently the case when a brand of milk-based drinks received a prohibition of sales notice and a strong warning to the population, resulting in the retailer voluntarily recalling all products.

  24. 24.

    Camille v Seychelles Breweries Ltd SC 6/1996 (unreported)

  25. 25.

    GrandJean v The Seychelles Breweries Co Ltd SC 368/1996 (unreported)

  26. 26.

    Aithal v Seychelles Breweries Ltd SC 52/2004 (unreported)

  27. 27.

    It is interesting to note that, when asked about interactions with SADC and COMESA in the field of consumer law, officers unanimously responded that the revised CPA Bill (currently in the process of being drafted) will “have to be in line with SADC and COMESA.” However, there seems to be a general lack of clarity as to what this entails practically. SADC has adopted a Declaration on Regional Cooperation in Competition and Consumer Policies (SADC 2009), but yet again, it appears that this instrument is perceived as more focused on competition than consumer policy.

  28. 28.

    The agreement is available at https://www.tralac.org/resources/by-region/comesa-eac-sadc-tripartite-fta.html (last accessed 15 April 2018).

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Correspondence to Marco Rizzi.

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Rizzi, M. Reflections on Consumer Law and Policy in Seychelles. J Consum Policy 41, 395–410 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10603-018-9378-z

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Keywords

  • Seychelles
  • Consumer law
  • Consumer policy
  • Product safety
  • Product liability
  • Standardization
  • Mixed jurisdiction
  • UNGCP