Consumers’ plight is paramount

18/12/2015 08:41

Consumers should not be made to wait for long hours at wharfs or jetties especially when they are travelling to their islands to rejoice Christmas with their loved ones. This is a period during which consumers resort to celebrate the festive season with their families and relatives.

This timely call comes from the Consumer Council of Fiji following media reports of more than one-hundred passengers who had spent a night onboard, inter island vessel MV Westerland on Wednesday, 16 December 2015, (Fiji Sun 18/12/15). It is reported that the delay was caused due to a site-survey conducted by the Maritime Safety Authority of Fiji (MSAF). It is a procedure conducted to give clearance to the vessel.

The Consumer watchdog welcomes such procedural checks by MSAF, however, is concerned that passengers were subjected to inconvenience. Children, elders, and women have been eagerly wanting to reach their destinations in a timely manner. Nevertheless, this could not be possible as their journey, which they paid for was disrupted.

The inter-island shipping companies and MSAF are urged to plan procedural matters in such a manner that the ships leave the ports as per their scheduled timetables. At the end of the day, these passengers have paid for the service and have planned their days accordingly. These passengers should be given value for their monies spent.

Consumers must be given adequate notice of any cancellations or delays in shipping services to enable them to plan their days appropriately. This would avoid the chaos experienced by the consumers recently. Although there were meals provided to the passengers, their ‘loss of time’ cannot be compensated due to the delays encountered. Families who were travelling to attend functions like weddings and funerals have suffered a momentous loss.

Over the years, the Council has been receiving complaints and concerns from consumers regarding delays, cancellation of services without prior notice, over-crowding and missing luggage and other personal items.

It is high time that relevant authorities intervened and improved on their service delivery.