January 21, 2019
Increased economic growth and development locally have resulted in an influx of new products and technology into the Fijian market place.
Fijian consumers are benefitting in this regard. Especially with the different brands of vehicles and that are now available to Fijian consumers. There are vehicles being sold now that fit the individual needs and budgets of consumers
As a result Fijian consumers have become vehicle savvy and do exhaustive research on new brands of vehicles before making their purchases. They consider numerous aspects of these vehicles including their quality, engine and passenger capacity, price and durability.
An important aspect that is also considered is the availability of spare parts for these vehicles. It can be extremely frustrating for consumers to buy a vehicle, only to have it break down later because of a faulty part.
This frustration is then further compounded when they take the vehicle back to the trader only to be informed that there are no spare parts in stock or that the trader no longer carries spare parts for the particular model. In some cases the replacement of these spare parts are not covered by the warranty.
In these instances consumers are left with few options. They can either wait for a spare part to become available and then fork out more money for the replacement part. Or in some cases they are forced to use counterfeit or second-hand parts as a replacement. This poses its own challenges as many times the parts may not perform up to standard and may indeed cause further damage to the vehicle.
The Consumer Council of Fiji has recorded many unfortunate cases where consumers have complained about issues they face when trying to procure spare parts.
In some cases vehicle dealers are either unable to provide spare parts or take months and charge high costs to consumers to get the parts from overseas. Consumers incur costs by paying for alternative modes of transportation while waiting for the parts to arrive.
In other cases, vehicle dealers sell unknown brands or obsolete models of vehicles without ensuring that spare parts are available. The vehicle dealer makes the money but once the problem starts with the vehicle, the consumer is made to run around for parts because the vehicle dealer has no obligation to stock parts. This is where mechanics and spare-part dealers modify spare parts in an effort to assist which is of concern from a safety perspective.
Since 2016 the Council has received 168 complaints regarding spare parts worth a total of $103,375.49. While the number of cases is lower than some other categories of complaints, they nonetheless represent hundreds of consumers who have been left feeling cheated and frustrated.
In one case recorded at the Council a complainant was left extremely frustrated after he was given the run around and made to wait for spare parts.
The Complainant had bought a $220 car battery from the respondent but before he was able to pick it up, the respondent sold it to another customer.
He was then advised that the new stock would be available in two weeks’ time. Unfortunately for the complainant this was a lie because when checked back after two weeks, he was informed that the battery had been sold out once again.
This left him feeling extremely dissatisfied with the service. He contacted the Council seeking assistance and requested that he be provided a refund in order to purchase his battery at separate trader.
Thanks to the Council’s intervention, the respondent provided the complainant a new car battery and the complainant was satisfied with the outcome.
In another case a frustrated complainant purchased a $13,200 vehicle only to discover later that the rear light did not have a protective cover. She was further vexed to learn that the respondent would not foot the $400 cost for the repair and spare parts, despite selling her the defective vehicle.
She was also advised that the car would be fixed when spare parts were available. She lodged a complaint with the Council and after the Council’s intervention, the respondent agreed to pay for the repairs and parts and get the vehicle passed by the Land Transport Authority.
Issues with spare tyres are also recorded frequently by the Council and it has become disconcerting to note that multiple traders are guilty of providing substandard replacement tyres.
In one case recorded by the Council, a complainant had bought two tyres from a trader but to his dismay one burst within a week and the second tyre burst two weeks later. This caused him extreme distress as it meant he would have to spend money to travel on public transport and also fork out funds to replace the tryes.
The respondent had promised to replace the burst tyres. However when he did provide the replacements the wires in the tyre were visible and they were also worn out.
A further replacement tyre provided burst just after leaving the respondents compound. The Council intervened and the respondent provided three second hand tyres that were suitable for their purpose.
Consumers are advised to exercise their rights and responsibilities when purchasing any item, this will ensure that they have proof of purchase. Equally important is to enquire after the warranty period given to any item that you purchase as this will help you avoid any nasty surprises down the line.
There may be some components that are not covered by the warranty and it is important to ask as many questions as possible regarding the warranty of items and the availability of spare parts.
Traders must also not mislead consumers regarding the availability of spare parts with the aim of getting them to purchase a product.
Consumers who face issues with traders providing replacement and spare parts are encouraged to contact the Council on the National Consumer Helpline toll free number 155.