School Managements encouraged to avoid restrictive trade practices

08/12/2008 16:19

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.

Most schools have formally informed parents of the availability of the required standard school uniforms and stationery in one trading outlet only. However, these “required standards” are not clearly described giving parents no choice but to purchase from the schools “preferred” supplier. This is an indirect way of promoting exclusive dealing to take place especially if the school is not able to clearly define required standards. The Council would like to advise school managements that it should make the standard for the school uniforms known to other potential retailing outlets so that parents have a wide variety of options available to them.

Exclusive dealings limit parents choice to bargain the price of school items from other retailers and are forced to pay an exorbitant price. The school management should not limit parents’ choice to purchase or have their children’s school uniforms sewn.

Such restriction is deemed contrary to the principles of consumer right to choice, which in essence takes away that choice element from a consumer by limiting or controlling the parents’ ability to purchase uniforms from other suppliers who maybe able to offer a cheaper option.

The Consumer Council encourages the school management to take in consideration all prevailing factors, particularly the hardship the parents are facing before imposing “standards”. With some parents already experiencing financial hardships, the students should be entitled to get their uniform sewn or purchase second hand uniforms from other students. School is a place to gain knowledge and skills and that should remain paramount to any school management. At a time like this school management should help parents in easing the burden of sending children to school.