Consumers deserve better shipping service: Council

30/12/2011 14:44

The Consumer Council of Fiji is calling on local Shipping Companies making island trips to provide quality and timely service which consumers deserve.

The hassle of going through crowded delayed ships stuffed with cargo and animals with very poor facilities has become a trend during festive season every year. Sadly no immediate attention has been paid to this area to fix existing problems. As a result, helpless consumers continue to suffer.

Several stranded passengers brought their complaints to the Council’s attention recently highlighting poor shipping services that include; overcrowding, no seats available disregarding the class of travel, passengers squeezed on the deck and aisle, sleeping on the floor, stuffy and uncomfortable environment inside the boat, no air condition or air condition not working properly, lousy washroom facilities etc. These are concerns from consumers travelling to and fro Kadavu, Taveuni, Koro, Savusavu and Lau.

These problems exist despite consumers pay as high as $210 per person per trip. What makes things worse is that such low standard service spoils the Christmas and New Year spirit and family reunions as consumers end up spending the special day in the boat travelling.

On 19 December, the involvement of unscrupulous travel agent created further problems for consumers who paid money to a travel agency authorized by the shipping company. Unfortunately, due diligence was not carried out by the shipping company that left passengers stranded. All this has become consumers’ problem. Now we are told that consumers have to purchase another ticket to return to the main land, putting further burden on consumers.

This arrangement is definitely not a consumer’s problem but it has affected their travel plans and made the trips more costly.

The Ministry of Transport therefore should be more vigilant at least during the busy festive season to ensure everything will flow smoothly and the travelling passengers are taken good care of. Why there is lack of monitoring during festive season by the appropriate agency under Ministry of Transport?

The state of confused consumers made to go in circles for a paid service is not fair and unacceptable. Shipping Companies needs to act more responsibly and immediately get their house in order to avoid the same occurrence every festive season. Apologizing to the affected passengers in media is not enough.

The travelling consumers deserve a much better service and it is time for the stakeholders to seriously look into this and take action against companies who cannot perform.

The Council urges consumers to pre-plan their trips to avoid last minute disruptions especially with the schools to open soon.