Consumer Council of Fiji Records Increased Volume of Complaints

13/08/2021 09:48

Heading into the new financial year, the Consumer Council of Fiji (CCoF) is calling on all Fijian businesses/retailers to engage in good business practices and treat consumers fairly – especially as most Fijians are reeling from the socio-economic impacts of the current pandemic.  

This fresh call for businesses to abide by consumer protection laws comes after the Council received an increased volume of complaints against businesses in the 2020-2021 financial year – with the monetary value of total complaints spiking up to a staggering $5 million compared to $3.9 million in the 2019-2020 financial year. This is indicative that certain businesses continue to breach consumer rights and profiteer at the expense of consumers.

Of particular concern to the Council is the receipt of complaints on landlord and tenancy issues and those pertaining to food and drinks as these two categories constituted 19% and 14% of the total complaints registered respectively.

“With many individuals affected by the pandemic and navigating through difficult circumstances, many tenants continued to face issues such as illegal evictions, failure to refund bond by landlords, disconnection of utilities, and non-issuance of tenancy agreements and receipt. While the Council was able to assist most tenants with such issues; we are imploring landlords to be mindful of the rights of tenants and not add burden during these challenging times,” said CCoF Chief Executive Officer Ms Seema Shandil.

For complaints relating to food and drinks, it was noted that numerous businesses continued to defy regulations and were found to be selling expired food items, selling priced control items above regulated price and restaurants preparing food in unhygienic conditions. Conditional selling was also rife at the beginning of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic as many businesses tried to take advantage of supply issues by placing conditions on the sale of sugar.

“Complaints relating to food and drinks is astounding due to the malignancy of its effects on consumers. Issues such as breach of price control order and conditional selling is concerning as it forces consumers to spend more in order to obtain basic food items and places additional burden on consumers financial status,” said Ms Shandil.

Eleven per cent (11%) of the complaints lodged during the period in question were relating to electronic goods, ranking third on the complaints list. The nature of complaints in this category related to non-availability of spare parts or after sales services; long periods of time taken for repairs; products becoming defective shortly after use; warranty terms and conditions not being honoured and repairs being conducted in a shoddy manner.

Hardware complaints constituted approximately 8% of the total complaints lodged at the Council, placing it fourth on the Council’s top 10 complaints. Delay in delivery, sudden increase in the price of items right before delivery, failure to supply items following payments and providing inferior quality timber were some of the issues raised to the Council.

Other categories of complaints which were recorded in the top 10 complaints for the financial year included; mobile products, VAT, stamp duty and Receipt complaints, public transport, advertisements and promotions, complaints against financial institutions and spare part dealers/companies.

Ms Shandil has provided assurances that the Council will continue to conduct intensive market surveillance and will progressively work towards creating a fair market for all consumers.

“Even though the Council has suspended face to face sessions with consumers, we have availed other convenient and easy to use platforms such as toll-free line, mobile app and social media which consumers can use to seek advice or lodge complaints. We are also encouraging consumers to be assertive in the market place and flag any consumer issues to the Council so that it can be rectified and other consumers do not fall victims to the same issues,” she said.

 Businesses are also being warned not to engage in shoddy market practices and provide quality goods to consumers at reasonable prices and comply with consumer protection laws.

 The Council encourages consumers who continue to face issues in the market place to call us on toll free helpline 155 or email complaints@consumersfiji.org. Alternatively, they can lodge complaints via the Consumer Council of Fiji Mobile App.