Press Releases 2008
The Consumer Council of Fiji is disappointed with the ruling on the two doctors implicated in Shavneet’s case. The Council views the mere fine of $500 as a slap on the face on Shavneet’s grieving parents and family members. The meagre fine is also a slap on the face of many other patients who entrust their lives in the hands of doctors in Fiji who fail to exercise due care in treating patients. Not only the justice was delayed to Shavneet’s parents but also the ruling denied justice given to Shavneet’s parents. The lenient disciplinary action against the two doctors is certainly a cause for concern.
The Consumer Council has received complaints from consumers on the unavailability of the discounted service advertised by Connect Broadband in the newspapers. Consumers have complained of being misled and cheated and have demanded stern action be taken against such companies. Connect Broadband customers are being offered a discounted rate of only 16 cents VIP per minute for calls made to Australia, NZ, UK, Canada and USA from 6pm (19th December) to 6am on January 5, 2009. Prior to the advertisement by Connect, dialing 021 and the overseas number could connect their customers to any of the mentioned destinations without any problems. However, this has not been the case since Connect advertised the discounted offer and customers are conveyed a telecom announcement that the dialed number is invalid.
The Consumer Council of Fiji has no qualms about companies announcing profits at the end of their financial year. After all, the reason for operating a business is to generate a good rate of return or profits. Fiji TV group made a profit of $26.45million in 2008. However, in the case of Fiji TV the Council deems their net profit announcement of $2.7million in 2008 as ‘bad profits’. A bad profit is referred to as profits earned at the expense of poor customer relationships. Whenever a Fiji TV customer’s grievance is unheard by the service provider, those profits are bad. Fiji TV’s bad profits come from delivering a poor customer experience of their highly charged services.
Some taxi proprietors in Fiji are living on guaranteed income and expect more from consumers to increase their income at the expense of their drivers. The Council makes this statement as the Fiji Taxi Union (FTU) General Secretary Mr Rishi Ram seeks a fare increase for taxi operators at a time when diesel price has plummeted (FS 16/12). Mr Ram is justifying the proposed increase in taxi fares by attributing it to the global market prices of oil. Mr Ram has additionally decided that the Council should be ‘kicked out’ for not doing its job. He is not specific about which particular responsibility the Council has failed to deliver. In fact, it is expected of Mr Ram and other service providers and traders to gag the Council in order to continue unfair market practices that are causing consumers to dig deeper into their pockets for services not worth the amount charged to consumers.
The Consumer Council of Fiji is concerned over the quality and safety standards of several imported products entering Fiji’s marketplace. Products ranging from shoes, clothes, toys to electrical items are causing great concern to the Council. The concern is not because there is an influx of substandard goods. Rather, the Council’s concern is that consumers are charged high prices for poor, cheap quality products. Consumers’ wallets are further drained when they pay more for maintenance, repair or replacement of goods because their poor quality tends to display defect signs quickly.
The Consumer Council of Fiji in its back –to-school reminder would like to inform consumers to exercise their consumer rights. Parents have a choice to purchase school uniform and school accessories from any shop they prefer and not what is preferred by the school management.
A lawyer is not above the reach of the law. The Legal Practitioners Act and the Code of Ethics for lawyers declare that lawyers are accountable for the actions they take and as a professional every lawyer must behave professionally, responsibly, and ethically. Unfortunately, there are lawyers who are in breach of their own legislation and the Code of Ethics when providing their services to consumers. However, the Fiji Law Society (FLS) president Mr Dorsami Naidu finds it right to defend his members who are in breach of their guiding documents instead of ensuring these are stringently adhered to.
The Consumer Council of Fiji calls on the interim government to reduce, if not completely remove, the Fiji Electricity Authority (FEA) fuel surcharge. The wet weather currently being experienced around the country coupled with plummeting price of fuel warrants the Council’s call. There is absolutely no reason why consumers should continue to be burdened with paying FEA fuel surcharge, especially after the Monasavu Dam is now indicating sufficient water levels that enables higher electricity generation. In addition, government has increased the fuel rebate to FEA from 4c per litre to 10c per litre.
The Consumer Council of Fiji echoes the sentiments of Judge Justice John Connors who criticized the delaying action by the Fiji Law Society (FLS) at the recent Attorney General’s conference. The Council is disappointed with FLS for stalling on consumer complaints against its members. The appalling comments forthcoming from the FLS president, Mr Dorsami Naidu, explains the delaying investigation and thereafter disciplinary actions against FLS members. Mr Naidu took it upon himself to judge the many consumer complaints against his members as mere allegations. Such perception held by him means condoning the professional misconduct of his members. Consumers therefore can not expect him as the president of FLS to act objectively in providing fair redress on complaints against FLS members.
The Consumer Council of Fiji cautions property owners on rent increments following the announcement on the removal of rental freeze in the 2009 Budget from 1st January 2009. The Consumer Council would like to clarify to property owners that in the 2009 Budget announcement the government has lifted the price control or the rent freeze on commercial properties only and not on residential properties. This means that the rental freeze on residential properties remains until further notice. Property owners of residential dwellings who have let out their premises for rent to individuals therefore cannot increase rental charges of their tenants.
The Consumer Council of Fiji is alarmed at the manner the Fiji Electricity Authority (FEA) had the government approve the implementation of the sought after fuel surcharge rate of 5.53 cents per kilowatt. The Council believes that FEA created a negative hype about the electricity supply in the country from the receipt of poor rainfall at the Monasavu dam, resulting in the increased usage of diesel generated electricity and alleged escalating costs to FEA. Now we learn that nature really didn’t pose the reason for the increase in the fuel surcharge rate from 2.83c/KW to 5.53c/KW. Rather, FEA needed to somehow generate money to fund the construction of the Nadarivatu dam. While the Council is not against the construction of the dam, as it would mean electricity generation from a renewable source, it cannot understand why the FEA CEO Mr Hasmukh Patel was not honest in stating the reason for wanting an increased fuel surcharge rate. Consumers would surely have understood FEA better in this regard.
The Consumer Council of Fiji maintains that nature is not to be blamed for the so-called looming energy crisis as asserted by the Fiji Electricity Authority’s (FEA) CEO Mr Hasmukh Patel. Mr Patel is creating a helpless situation in the country by blaming poor rainfall figures at the Monasavu Dam, claims that the Fiji Meteorology Department has refuted. Domestic consumers are constantly being warned by FEA of possible power shedding measures while businesses are to resort to their own generators in the bid to control escalating costs of the Authority.
The Consumer Council of Fiji is calling on the Ministry of Health (MOH) to get serious about addressing the age-old issue of doctor shortage in public hospitals. Why is MOH running around in circles with the existing knowledge on brain drain in the medical field and overseas recruitment drives that offer lucrative opportunities to our medical professionals? Has not the Health Ministry exhausted its breath in highlighting the same problems with our public hospitals year in and year out? Consumers have become tired of being dished out with these problems without any practical solutions by the Ministry to have them addressed for good.
The Consumer Council of Fiji wants the regulatory authority responsible for the affairs of the airline industry in Fiji to toughen up on Air Pacific’s ‘mistakes’.
Consumers in Fiji are sick and tired of the Fiji Electricity Authority’s (FEA) uncaring and unresponsive approach including the Authority’s poor delivery of customer care services. The Consumer Council of Fiji relates FEA’s sheer ignorance and negligence of its customers’ grievances as an attitude that is typical of a self regulatory organization.
The Consumer Council of Fiji shares similar concerns with that of the Fiji Motor Traders Association (FMTA) on the importation of unfamiliar brands or make of motor vehicles in Fiji. The Council is concerned because consumers are at the losing end when they purchase unfamiliar brand of vehicles that usually do not come with back-up services, spare parts are not easily made available and mechanics often do not possess the technical or mechanical knowledge to diagnose or fix problems related to unfamiliar vehicle brands.
The rainfall statistics over a five year period from 2004 to 2008 clearly indicates that FEA is trying to create urgency and uneasiness amongst Fiji consumers by announcing a possible power crisis. FEA CEO is suggesting power sharing as the solution to the looming crisis caused by high diesel power generation and low water levels at the Monasavu Dam. The Council simply fails to understand the low water level at the Monasavu dam and therefore FEA’s low percentage of energy generation from hydro; especially given that the Monasavu rainfall statistics for 2004 was the lowest recorded rainfall ever in the past 24 years. Yet, FEA was able to produce 57% of energy from Hydro. How was FEA able to achieve a high energy production from hydro when the rainfall figure at the Dam was the lowest ever? Why isn’t FEA able to achieve the same result now with a much better rainfall statistic?
The Consumer Council of Fiji questions the vigilance of the Commerce Commission in enhancing consumers interests while encouraging a competitive and monopolistically free telecommunications environment in Fiji. Simply, the Council feels that the Commerce Commission has been greatly ineffective in regulating and enforcing the provisions of the Commerce Act 1998. The Council comments come in light of the laid back and unresponsive attitude of the Commerce Commission towards consumer complaints about the Vodafone Fiji organised and run text promotions in the country.
The Consumer Council of Fiji supports the interim government’s decision for a holistic reform to the current system of self regulation by the Fiji Law society, the introduction of an independent regulator to cover the whole of the legal service industry to tackle firms providing poor service.
The Consumer Council of Fiji is not surprised that Vodafone is defending its Car-Razy Competition in response to Council’s concern that Vodafone is running a lottery for its pre pay and post pay users.