Unavailability of Disposable Cards in Buses a concern

10/11/2017 12:34

The Consumer Council of Fiji is urging the e-ticketing service provider and bus companies to make disposable cards readily available for consumers travelling in buses. This is particularly for the convenience of consumers in the rural areas.

The call comes in light of the growing number of concerns received by the Council via its National Consumer Helpline and social media page on the unavailability of disposable cards in some buses.

In a particular case, a senior citizen who boarded the bus from Maro, Sigatoka to travel to Suva had only $5.00 balance on her e-card. She needed another 3 dollars to pay the correct fare. Unfortunately, the bus driver did not have any disposable card available. As such, he required her to board the bus on the condition that she topped up her card during a stopover in Sigatoka town in order to pay the full fare. Upon a 10 minutes stopover at the Sigatoka bus station, the passenger struggled to find her way to the nearest e-card top up agent. Finally, when she managed to locate one, there was already a long queue. She waited for a while before she got a chance to top up her card. She managed to make her way back to the bus just in time before it departed the Sigatoka bus station. Had the passenger been a few minutes late, she would have missed the bus and been stranded in town without her baggage.

All this hassle could have been avoided if the bus driver had the disposable cards accessible in the bus.  

The complaint prompted the Council to undertake a quick survey of the issue.

Out of the 27 buses surveyed by the Council in the Central, Western and Northern Divisions, 13 buses did not have any disposable cards available. Upon query, the drivers informed the Council that they were not given any disposable cards and some claimed that the machine in their buses could not read the disposable cards.

Out of the 13 buses which did not possess the disposable e-cards, 8 were in the Western Division while 5 were in the Central Division. All the bus companies servicing in the Northern Division have provisions for disposable cards.

Based on the information above, it is quite clear that the issues pertaining to unavailability of disposable cards is between the service provider and the bus companies. However, the consumers are unnecessarily being burdened with the issue.

The bus companies need to be mindful of Regulation 7 A of the Electronic Fare Ticketing (Omnibus) (Amendment) Regulations 2017, which clearly stipulates that “An omnibus operator must ensure that disposable bus cards are available for sale at all times on any omnibus owned by the omnibus operator.” A penalty of $1000 applies if this is not adhered to by the bus operators. A failure to pay the fine on their part will result in a maximum fine of $5000.

The Council is of the view that in order to make the system work and more adaptable, all stakeholders need to work together and ensure the teething issues are dealt with properly. While the consumers are encouraged to get their personal e-transport cards recharged and kept safely, the bus companies are urged to ensure the disposable cards are available in the buses for the convenience of the many consumers in situations of unforeseen circumstances.

The e-ticketing service provider also needs to ensure that the disposable cards are readable in the buses to avoid unnecessary delays and frustration amongst drivers and passengers.