Council supports Independent Redress System

25/09/2008 16:19

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.

An independent body with transparent and democratic decision-making powers will ensure that consumer grievances would be heard. Such a body will no doubt struggle to strike the right balance to regulate previously unregulated professionals or experts. Fundamentally, this body must be given the tools it needs to succeed as a regulator and it must have vested powers to sanction lawyers and seek judicial enforcement of the disciplinary consequences it imposes on the lawyers.

The Council had essentially made the call for such an establishment last month following the surge in the number of consumer complaints lodged with the Council relating mostly to the professional misconduct of lawyers. To provide these consumers with redress, the Council saw it right to bring the complaints to the attention of the Fiji Law Society as the appropriate and mandated authority looking into lawyer related grievances.

From the Council’s perspective the 183 complaints statistics that was announced by the president of FLS Mr Isireli Fa in August this year is meaningless because he has failed to propose what he intends to do with these complaints and how soon action will be taken against lawyers. Consumers have been waiting for too long to receive justice. The Council has been expressing to the FLS in writing its disappointed with their unresponsive attitude towards disciplining lawyers, many of who are the FLS members.

The faith consumers and the Council have placed in the FLS for a fair and just delivery of resolution has been tainted via complete lack of regard for resolving these complaints through the institution’s redress mechanism and the continued, unreasonable delay in dealing with the consumer grievances.  

Self-regulation is clearly not seen to be working with the FLS. It is unfortunate that this profession has been able to get away with their professional misconduct for this long and it is high time, necessary reforms happen in this complaint-riddled industry, which is costing consumers thousands of dollars.