The Joyous Festive Season is here!

February 13, 2018

It is that time of the year again when people tend to spend a lot on merry making and get together functions. It is expected that consumers’ budget will stretch as the shopping list gets longer than usual. In most households, the quantity of cooking and baking increases and so do parties and exchange of gifts.

 However, the one thing consumers do not realise is that overspending during this festive period will lead to uncalled stress once the festivities have passed and many commitments remain unattended. The Council has noted that over the years consumers overspend during the festive period and tend to take loans to meet their financial commitments afterwards.

 It is therefore only wise for consumers to celebrate Christmas and New Year within their financial means and ensure they are financially stable at all times.

 It is important that consumers pay detail attention when purchasing items during the rush period and be mindful of few things to avoid unwarranted hassle and loss of money.

 When shopping for groceries, consumers need to pay attention to product expiry dates, shelf price of products may differ with advertised price or cashier price when you checkout, and misleading advertisements. Discuss redress policies with the trader if you are buying gifts such as shoes and clothes that may not fit the person or the person already has that item.

 There are numerous factors which consumers need to bear in mind before going out shopping. Consumer responsibility checklist should include:

 –          Drawing up a budget and sticking to it – you do not want a financial crisis after festivity is over.

 –          Avoid last minute shopping –plan ahead and do your shopping beforehand. Leaving your shopping to the last minute will only cause undue frustration with long queues at the cashier.

 –           Avoid car park congestions – as Christmas nears people will flock to the stores, hence securing a parking spot even for a 30 minutes shopping may be a daunting task. It’s better to choose off peak hours to do your shopping or simply use taxi or go to alternative shopping.

 –          Scrutinizing advertisement prices versus what is actually charged – there are unscrupulous traders out there and consumers need to be vigilant.

 –           Engaging in comparative shopping – what is expensive in one store may be cheaper in the other.

 –          Retaining receipts of purchase to seek redress if the need arises – you may go wrong with the gifts purchased for the loved ones hence would need to get the items replaced.

–           Reading product labels when shopping – expiry dates and manufacturer details are important.

–          Buying quality goods at reasonable prices – ensure what you are consuming is safe for your health.

 –           Making healthy choices – with rise in Non-Communicable Diseases in the country, try and shift your focus on healthier options while maintaining the spirit of Christmas.

–          Not overstocking on the pretext of ‘Sale’ – if a product with near expiry date is being sold at an exceptionally cheap rate, then you should not stock that item if you cannot use the before the expiry period. This will lead to wastage.

–           Reading and understanding terms and conditions – read those fine prints including pre-disclosures if purchasing items on credit. Safeguard your finances from spending on products not fit for purpose.

–          Avoid taking loans – particularly unsecured loans. Try to celebrate this festive season without going into debt.

–           Don’t get drawn with ‘bait’ advertising. Compare prices over few months.

 Just as consumers have a list of responsibilities, so do traders. Traders need to ensure they do not increase their revenue collection through deceptive means by luring consumers through misleading or bait advertising. Traders should maintain ethical conduct at all times and in doing so the following should be taken into consideration:

 –           Disclosure of information – Provide information to customers up-front regarding products and services; hence minimizing chances of disputes or complaints at a later date.

 –          Avoid deceptive tactics – Clearly disclose all costs associated with the product and/or service to the consumer at the outset. Do not ‘advertise’ or tempt consumers with a VAT exclusive price.

 –          Avoid bait advertising – Do not lure consumers with the promise of a sale when you don’t have enough items to sell. Thus, directing the consumer to buy a similar product that is more expensive.

 –           Give accurate quotes – Do not mislead customers when giving quotations since it is on this information that customers make their decision to acquire the goods or the services.

 –          Clarity in terms and conditions – ensure that the terms and conditions of the goods or services are in simple English that can be easily understood.

 –           Eliminate exclusionary notices – Do not display exclusionary notices such as ‘No Exchange’, ‘No Refund’ which restrict consumer redress options as this is contrary to the Fijian Competition and Consumer Commission Act 2010.

Consumers are advised to seek the Council’s assistance and/or lodge complaints on the National Consumer Helpline toll-free number 155 if they encounter any unethical business practice by traders during this festive season.