In an effort to safeguard the rights of all consumers living in Puerto Rico against illegal and discriminatory practices by companies that offer goods and services, especially online, Consumer Affairs Secretary Luis G. Rivera Marín and acting governor, Kenneth McClintock, signed an administrative order Thursday creating the Anti-Discrimination Commercial Office.
The new office known as OADC in Spanish, is authorized to receive, investigate and respond to consumer complaints of discrimination to enable them to enjoy full rights and privileges received by residents of the 50 states through commercial transactions, the administrative order said.
“With the signing of this administrative order, we are supporting the efforts we have been conducting since 2009 to educate and claim that companies offer the same services offered in the continental United States, and for consumers to be watchful of any situations that are considered discriminatory and denounce them, so the Consumer Affairs Department can intervene on the consumer’s behalf,” said Rivera Marín, adding the administrative order is effective immediately.
The birth of the new office comes just weeks after popular online retailer Amazon.com eliminated its free shipping option for Puerto Rico orders, as News is my Business reported.
“A week ago, we sent a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos demanding that the company honor the ‘super saver’ free shipping option for Puerto Rico. We gave him several days to respond,” Rivera Marín told News is my Business.
Over the past two years, DACO (as the consumer watchdog agency is known in Spanish) has identified several other retailers that refuse to ship items to Puerto Rico, namely Dell, Best Buy, Toshiba and Apple. Furthermore, companies such as American Airlines, Sam’s Club, Jostens, FedEx, UPS and DHL classify Puerto Rico as an international location, shutting island residents out as well.
“We’ve already sent out 250 letters to the largest companies that do business with the island, including a fact sheet about Puerto Rico, to get them to include Puerto Rico in their shipping policies,” he said. “The goal is to eliminate the tagline of ‘ships to all 50 states except Puerto Rico.”
“Beyond affecting consumer pockets, these policies affect people’s dignities, which is why we’re taking up this battle,” he said, noting the new office has a staff of three attorneys and will become self-funding through damage settlements the courts may award.
The OADC has also established the Internet Merchant Association, through which it has access to some 1,500 members companies, which Rivera Marín said will be contacted as well.
According to the order the following are considered discriminatory practices: significant differences in access, sales, products, goods, services, warranties and delivery that have no real justification based on shipping costs, taxes, fees, requirements imposed by federal or state government limitations based on licenses or contracts, permits, patents, copyrights or any other aspect which is directly or indirectly out of your business.
Consumers interested in filing a complaint may do so through email@example.com.