DACO approves of conflict-mediation program
SAN JUAN – The Consumer Affairs Department (DACO by its Spanish acronym) welcomed Friday House Bill 797 (PC797), which seeks to amend the DACO Organic Law to empower the agency secretary to create and implement a mediation program for To deal with all cases filed with the agency in order to streamline procedures, to have alternative methods of settlement of complaints filed with that agency.
The measure, filed by the president of the House Consumer Affairs, Banking and Insurance Committee, Yashira Lebrón Rodríguez, states that DACO deals with complaints against businesses, warranties, condominium matters, building defects and hidden defects, among others. Currently, these are supposed to be resolved within six months; however, the reality is they can take up to two years.
House Bill 797 posits that these complaints before DACO could be resolved through open channels of communication and understanding, using solution mechanisms and impartial third parties to help reach the points of convergence of the situation.
However, Joel Monje, on behalf of DACO Secretary Michael Pierluisi, pointed out during the public hearings held Friday in the House that the DACO law itself gives him the power to establish rules and regulations needed for the adjudication processes conducted at the agency.
“Under this delegated power, we adopt the Regulation of Adjudicatory Procedures that allowed us to establish an agile and flexible mediation procedure. Specifically, Article 13 provides that the secretary of the agency, an administrative judge or a panel of judges may, at the request of one of the parties or on their own initiative, summon the parties to a mediation, conciliation or transaction meeting to reach an agreement,” Monje testified.
The official assures that the agency currently performs mediation procedures through this mechanism that is specifically recognized and regulated by the aforementioned regulation. However, he left the door open for the Legislative Assembly to decide whether the express incorporation of a mediation process is necessary.
David Rodríguez Ortiz, president of the Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce (CCPR), endorsed the measure, but not before questioning whether implementing the program in DACO would be the best alternative.
“We are raise the issue with the fiscal situation of the country in mind, prohibitions on hiring staff and the bureaucracy usually associated with government procedures,” Rodriguez Ortiz said during his testimony.
The CCPR president said that the agency currently has the Center for Dispute Resolution, which uses mediation and arbitration mechanisms to help decide the commercial disputes of its associated in a flexible, cost-effective and quick manner. Rodríguez Ortiz said it could be an “excellent” alternative to address or mediate in the types of controversies referred to in the measure.
The president of the local business group used the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce as an example, which supports mediation as an efficient method of dispute resolution and has its Arbitration Institute to offer these services. In addition, the chamber of commerce of the city of Florence, Italy, has a mediation center, as does the city of Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates.
Both the DACO representative, the president of the CCPR and Rep. Lebrón Rodríguez agreed that any decision should result in speed, impartiality, economy and confidentiality.
Also summoned to the hearing were Gilberto Arvelo, better known as Doctor Shopper, the Department of Justice, the United Retailers Center and the Alternate Methods Bureau were, which was excused from it.