Taking control of your consumer rights

December 14, 2020

From the internet to television, newspapers to billboards, and clothes, almost everything you see has some sort of advertisement. In modern day, understanding and taking control of your consumer rights is an asset.

A consumer that is well versed with his or her consumer rights arein a better position to fight for a redress because they would know if they have been cheated.

Consumer rights

There are eight consumer rights that consumers must be aware of.

1. The right to satisfaction of basic needs – to have access to basic, essential goods and services, adequate food, clothing, shelter, health care, education, public utilities, water and sanitation.

2. The right to safety – to be protected against products, production processes and services which are hazardous to health or life.

3. The right to be informed – to be given the facts needed to make an informed choice.

4.The right to choose – to be able to choose from a range of products and services.

5. The right to be heard – to have consumer interests represented in the making and execution of government policy and in the development of products and services.

6. The right to redress – to receive a fair settlement of just claims, including compensation for misrepresentation, shoddy goods or unsatisfactory services.

7. The right to consumer education – to acquire the knowledge and skills needed to make informed, confident choices about goods and services.

8. The right to a healthy environment – to live and work in an environment which isnon-threatening to the well-being of present and future generations.Understanding what measures to take

To take better control of your rights, consumers are advised to consider the following:

  • Play the market – Blind loyalty to business or service could be costing you a fortune.
  • Make sure you are not wasting money by regularly seeking out better deals.
  • Test their loyalty – If you find a cheaper rate or better service, contact your current provider and demand that they match or better it.
  • Do not pay for things you don’t need – You may be paying top dollar for services you will never use, such as health insurance extras you do not get value from.
  • Do not trust commercial companion sites – Companion sites prioritise deals from companies that offer them the best financial incentives, not their customers. Compare themarket yourself with just a couple of phone calls or web searches.
  • Keep records – Keeping records of your contacts with businesses put you in a much stronger position when it comes to queries and exchanges and refund and comparisons.
  • What if I lost my receipt? – A receipt is not your only option for proof of purchase. You can also use the following:
    • Bank statement
    • Layby agreement
    • Verbal reference number
    • Warranty card
    • Product serial or production number
    • Photocopy or photograph of the original receipt

Everyone has the same rights under the law but you will find it easier exercising those rights if you have kept good records. EVIDENCE IS EVERYTHING.

Knowing when and how to use your rights

Fijian businesses are bound by Fijian Consumer laws and getting to know your consumer rights will help you if you have to use them. Here are a few tips if you have an issue with a product.

  • Do not pay for rights you already have – Avoid buying extended warranties. In many cases they provide little to no extra benefit. Consumers should note that they are also protected by consumer laws in Fiji whereby they can seek redress if sold shoddy products.
  • Approach both the retailer and the manufacturer – You can choose to complain based on which is most convenient for you to deal with. But complaining to both means you can decide who is likely to resolve your problem most effectively.
  • Play to your strengths – Are you better at complaining in person? On the phone? More confident when writing? Choose the method you are strongest in to make your complaint orask your friend for help.
  • Unhappy with the response? – Ask to speak to someone more senior, contact your local fair-trading organization, approach the industry’s professional body, or share your story on a public forum.
  • Use your voice – you can raise the issue with respective ministers or elected leaders, orresearch more into the issue and how it can be remedied or policies which can be changed tohelp all consumers in the country.

Consumers are urged to contact the Council for any consumer issue, through our toll free helpline 155 or via the Consumer Council of Fiji Mobile App. Alternatively, you can email complaints@consumersfiji.org.