Before 2012 the Superintendence of Industry and Commerce of Colombia was just another public entity. However, the designation of Pablo Felipe Robledo as Superintendent of Industry and Commerce started what I would called "A new era for the entity".
Mr. Robledo began his career in the public sector as private secretary for the director of the Administrative Department of Security, which back in 1998, was the entity in charged of Intelligence Operations in Colombia. In 2003, Mr. Robledo, accompanied by other remarkable scholars like Ramiro Bejarano Guzman and Marco Antonio Álvarez Gómez, integrated the Drafting Commission of the "Reform Project to the Code of Civil Procedure of Colombia". In 2010, he was named Vice-Minister of Justice, and finally in 2012 Mr. Robledo was named Superintendent of Industry and Commerce by the ex-president Juan Manual Santos.
Mr. Robledo studied law in Universidad Externado de Colombia and completed a specialization in Civil Procedural Law. Actually, Mr. Robledo is candidate for the Master Degree Program in Civil and State Contractual and Extra-contractual Liability of the Universidad Externado de Colombia.
Mr. Robledo has been also a recognized member of the Colombian Institute of Procedural Law, the Commercial Lawyers Association and the Arbitration and Conciliation Center of the Chamber of Commerce of Bogotá.
His leadership as Superintendent of Industry and Commerce
Since Mr. Robledo started as Superintendent of Industry and Commerce it was his goal to strengthen the entity and continue with the pro-competition and pro-consumer goals established by the government since 2010. Now the Superintendence of Industry and Commerce counts with a budget of 180,000 millions of pesos (38,000 millions in 2010) and a staff of 1750 employees (400 in 2010).
To highlight some of the most important achievements of the Superintendence of Industry and Commerce under the leadership of Pablo Felipe Robledo, we will proceed by looking to the work of some of the offices that conform the entity.
Since 2014 the Deputy Superintendence for Consumer Protection started a project called "Las Casas de Consumidor" or Consumer Houses. The project was developed in partnership with the National Network for Consumer Protection and the municipal mayors of different capitals of the country.
The idea behind the project was to take the presence of the Superintendence of Industry and Commerce to the different regions of the national territory and to encourage the creation of a true culture of respect for consumer rights.
The work of the 27 Consumer Houses that actually exist in Colombia, is to provide advice and support to the municipal administration in the proper exercise of their functions of inspection, monitoring and control in matters of consumer protection and legal metrology.
The Consumer Route
Another innovative project created to promote consumer protection was "La ruta del Consumidor" or Consumer Route. The project consists in touring the different cities of Colombia with a Mobile Unit in changed of providing advice and guidance to consumers on issues related to deceptive publicity, the duties of merchants related to consumer protection and the venues provided by the law to file complaints, file trademarks and invention patents applications, and others.
The project allows consumers to file complaints and demands with the Mobile Unit. This in an important achievement for the Superintendence of Industry and Commerce because before 2012, a consumer could only file a complaint in the Capital City of Colombia, Bogota.
The Consumer Route also provides to local authorities and organizations working for promotion of consumer protection training in how to handle and prevent violation of consumers' rights. Finally, during its visits to the cities the Consumer Route carries out preventive inspection visits related related to legal metrology which encourages merchant's compliance with the law.
Deceptive advertisements and defective products
To protect and promote protection of consumers' rights the Superintendence of Industry and Commerce through the work of the Deputy Superintendence for Consumer Protection and the Deputy Superintendence of Judicial Affairs, investigates and sanctions conducts related to deceptive publicity, defective products, and warranty coverage.
The number of complaints solved has increased and time of response have also improved. In 2012 the time required to review and decide about the existence of a well pleaded cause of action was five months. Moreover, the complete term to decide a complaint was usually of more than 16 months.
Nowadays, the time required to review and decide about the existence of a well pleaded cause of action is 7 days, and the complete term to decide a complaint is usually five months.
In 2012 the entity received around 10,000 complaints a year. Nowadays, the entity receives more than 50,000 complaints. However, it is worth of notice that at the present time at least 80% of those proceedings end by means of settlements.
Investigations and sanctions are not always as effective as preventive measures. In consideration of that, during the past 6 years the Superintendence of Commerce has worked to prevent consumers from being deceived. Lets mention recent examples. During 2018, the entity has conducted two important campaigns designed to educate and inform consumers.
"Que no te metan gol en el mundial de futbol Rusia 2018" (Do not get a goal in the 2018 FIFA World Cup)
By means of this campaign the Superintendence of Industry and Commerce gave the public relevant information related to the whole process of going as a tourist to Russia.
In partnership with FIFA in Colombia, consumers received information related to the cultural differences between Colombians and Russians as well as the severity of the legal norms and regulations against falsification of tickets and its resale.
TACATA Campaña de Seguridad. (TACATA Security Campaign)
However since 2013, several automakers began large recalls of vehicles where this devices had been installed due to safety concerns related to defects in the design of the airbags.
In consideration of that, the Superintendence of Industry and Commerce launched a security campaign seeking to inform consumers about the defects of the airbags and to procure its intermediate replacement. The campaign was implemented in partnership with the National Federation of Merchants - FENALCO and the Colombian Association of Motor Vehicles -ANDEMOS.
The public was informed about the vehicles' brands to which TACATA Airbags where incorporated and the car dealers that provide replacement services free of charge. Moreover, the entity designed a Research System that allows consumers to know whether their vehicle is among those which require airbag replacement.
Personal Data protection
During the 6th International Congress on Personal Data Protection which took place in the city of Santa Marta the days 7 and 8th of June, and received the participation of experts from countries such as Canada, the United States, Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil and Mexico, it was highlighted the work of the entity focused on sanctioning those who infringed the law by not informing consumers about where is being collected their personal data, what is the purpose of such collection and what measures are being taken to protect it.
Stop and compare
The Deputy Superintendence for the Verification and the Control of Technical Regulation and Legal Metrology launched this year a campaign that seeks to educate consumers on how to use of the Price per Unit Measure - PUM as a tool to make their daily purchases.
The PUM is a price - unit ratio used to facilitate comparison of prices between products of the same market.
In Colombia, merchants and commercial establishments must inform clearly and accurately the consumer about the price per unit upon which they sell their products. This information must be visible on labels, shelves and any form of promotion or advertisement of the product.
The PUM must be indicated using identical units for all products of the same category in terms of kilo, gram, meter, centimeter, liter and milliliter.
Besides educating consumers the Superintendence has been very active promoting compliance and imposing sanctions. In 2017 in the sector of packaged products the entity identified more than 124 products that did not comply with the regulation and for which, it was imposed a $1786 million pesos sanction.
According to the law in Colombia, manufacturers and importers of scales must receive a Certificate of Conformity, which is given only to those who have demonstrated compliance with strict technical standards. In 2018, more then 100.000 scales have been inspected.
Colombia, international leader in consumer protection
In consideration to its efforts and achievements related to the protection of consumers, ICPEN the International Consumer Protection Enforcement Network which consists of consumer protection law enforcement authorities from across the globe, decided to transfer its presidency to Colombia in 2019.
ICPEN is a diverse network that operates under a rotating presidency. For instance, in 2016, the Presidency was assumed by Germany, in 2017 by Turkey and in 2018 by Zambia.
Industrial Property Protection
To promote and procure a proper national environment for innovation, in 2016 it was launched a new electronic system called SIPI, which allows inventors to file trademark and patent applications in a completely electronic manner. SIPI, which is a high-tech system to administer Industrial Property affairs, allows applicants to have access to all their filing information online, manage their cases, follow up and receive notifications by email.
Center for Technological Information and Support for Industrial Property Management - CIGEPI
In addition to that, the Deputy Superintendence for Industrial Property by the implementation of programs, strategies and the dissemination of technological information through its Center for Technological Information and Support has achieved the decentralization of the IP system and has contributed to increase the number of patent filings.
In 2014 the CIGEPI launched a new program called Centers for Technology and Innovation Support (CATI – Centros de Apoyo a la Tecnología y la Innovación) which seeks to facilitate access to technological information contained in patent documents and to promote its effective and efficient use.
Actually, there are 31 Centers for Technology and Innovation Support in 17 cities, located in Universities, Innovation and Research Centers, Chambers of Commerce and Business Associations.
Investigation and prosecution of Cartels and Collusions
And last but not least, the Superintendence of Industry and Commerce has lead some of the most important investigations in the history of Cartels in the Colombia.
To investigate and prosecute cartels and collusions in public auctions the entity created in 2017 an Elite Group highly sophisticated integrated by near 40 officials experts in economics, competition, collusion and engineerings.
Thanks to the coordinated work of the Deputy Superintendence for the Protection of Competition and the Elite Group, more than 23 companies have been charged for allegedly having colluded or cartelized systematically in at least a 100 public contracting processes between 2014 and 2017.
In addition to that, the entity has played a fundamental role in the investigation of cartels in other markets:
In 2016 TECNOQUÍMICAS, FAMILIA, KIMBERLY, three of the biggest sellers of Colombia, and 16 senior executives were sanctioned with fines that amounted more than 200,000 million pesos.
Three major notebook manufacturers were charged in 2017 and more than 27 executives and seniors managers were sanctioned for having collaborated, facilitated, authorized, executed or tolerated the cartelization. Fines of more than 15,000 millions of pesos were imposed.
Three of the biggest cement producers of Colombia where sanctioned for cartelization in 2018. The entity sanctioned ARGOS, CEMEX and HOLCIM for price fixing of Portland Type 1 gray cement in the domestic market with a fine of more than 200,000 millions of pesos.
Pablo Felipe Robledo's terms has finished and Colombia thanks him for his important leadership and his hard work. Although, the achievements of the Superintendence of Industry and Commerce are the achievements a whole team of public officers convinced of the importance of the protecting free competition and consumer's welfare, it is undeniable the important role that Mr. Robledo has played during this past six years
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