Council concerned over quality of imported goods

12/12/2008 15:11

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.

Prices charged to consumers do not reflect the poor quality of the products. For example, Indian clothes like saris are sold at expensive prices of above $200 but which have threads hanging lose or tinsels missing. Electrical items are yet another good example, which despite its poor quality and high prices, are most often not approved by the Fiji Electricity Authority. The Council is concerned that most often consumers are not informed about the reject, refurbished or inferior quality of the products at the point of sale which would enable consumers to make informed choices about the products.

The Council is conscious of the financial difficulties faced by consumers that are driving them to purchase goods that meet their price range. However, consumers are at a disadvantage when traders bombard them with poor quality products with high price tags to imitate the prices of genuine products. The quality of the goods sold to consumers is simply not reflective of the cost charged. Apparently, in this time of financial difficulties consumers are putting demand for the supply of cheap quality products and refurbished items. Traders are therefore taking advantage of the increase in demand for such products and selling them to consumers at high, unreasonable prices. In fact, the prices of these goods are so high that consumers are now lodging complaints with the Council about the high price tags of second hand products.

The Council believes that it is grossly unfair for traders to profit from the sale of substandard or poor quality goods to consumers. Consumers are losing out double time – firstly, by paying a high price for the product that is not worth the tagged price and secondly, paying additional costs in repairs or maintenance. Having in place standards for goods is what is required seriously to address the issue.  There are no standards currently in place in the country to guide importers or second hand dealers on the quality of products they sell and the prices charged. It has been an ongoing practice for traders to sell second-hand and inferior quality products as new and at the price of new items. It is, therefore, necessary that minimum statutory compliance of quality is drawn up by the Trade Standards body in Fiji to protect our consumers.

Moreover, in the absence of any standard to guide the importation of goods in Fiji prevents the protection of consumers from those goods that are recalled overseas due to certain failures. Having quality standards of goods in place therefore could act as a precautionary measure to the entry of recalled products. It is unfortunate that the government, local manufacturers and exporters are quick to adhere to standards on goods required by overseas countries. However, when it comes to protecting our consumers from inferior quality goods, there are no standard requirements. Fiji consumers are therefore being increasingly supplied reject goods of other countries, carrying high price tags and affecting the poor and vulnerable consumers the most.