Travelling in Public Transports
August 26, 2021
Fiji’s transport sector has been instrumental with its ability to connect people and facilitate trade. In 2019, the sector contributed close to eight per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), making it one of the most important sectors in the country. Majority of Fiji’s population heavily relies on public transportation as means of travel across the country. These services exist to provide travel options for all and are usually provided at the lowest possible cost, consistent with service quality and safety standards.
Consumer Rights while utilizing public transport
Any consumer who pays for a product or service expects quality returns. This also applies to public transportation. Each consumer is entitled to receive the best service possible when commuting via public transport. For years, bus companies have come under the spotlight for providing poor services and consistent lobbying for change by the Consumer Council of Fiji, caused many to improve services and upgrade their fleets. This however does not stop consumers from encountering issues when travelling, compelling the Council to consistently advocate for consumer awareness. It is imperative therefore, that consumers take note and public transport service providers take heed the following:
• Consumers have the right to travel in a safe transport that is road worthy;
• Consumers have the right to travel in a transport that disallows aggressive behaviour;
• All paying customers must receive legible receipts;
• Consumers must be charged the correct fare for each stage of travel; and
• Consumers have the right to have their concerns heard by public transport companies and drivers.
Responsibility of Public Transport operators
In Fiji, private transport companies have been used under contracts to provide public transportation services. Bus and minibus companies, along with taxi companies are provided permits to operate and their drivers are legally required to hold Public Service Vehicle licenses. Holders of both permits and licenses are expected to operate within the ambits of the law or risk having these revoked. Public transport companies are urged to ensure that:
• They provide safe comfortable services for commuters;
• they provide legible receipts;
• Consumer grievances are considered and rectified should there be a need;
• All drivers behave in a professional manner – within the ambits of the law and prioritize the safety of consumers.
Consumers play a vital role in ensuring there is no discord when travelling. It is imperative that consumers consider the following and exercise responsibility during commutes.
• Know your transport – It is imperative to intimately understand your desired public transportation system. Usually, there are multiple routes that take you to the desired destination. Traffic on certain routes may vary depending on time of the day and frequency of the transport. Building up such knowledge takes time and detailed study of the routes and timetables. However, in the long run it is the best way to beat the crowds.
• Move to the Center – Once inside the bus or car, move to the center. Standing at or near the entrance is not a good strategy, as people constantly move in those areas, which results in push and shoves – endangering people’s lives.
• Hold On – In a crowded bus, with no place to sit, find the best standing spot. Make sure it is near a pole or a handle, which can be held on to. Holding on to something not just prevents you from falling over someone in case of unforeseen jerks and pushes, but it also transfers the weight off your legs and reduces the overall fatigue of travel.
• Do not lean on poles – People have a habit of leaning over the poles in buses. This is not a good idea, as it does not allow your fellow passengers to find a place to hold on to.
• Be aware of your personal belongings – Keep the luggage you are carrying with you to the minimum. Additionally, keep your wallets, cell phones and other expensive belongings close to you. If you have expensive items in the luggage, avoid leaving it on overhead racks. Instead stick them below the seat making them less accessible.
• Keep your transport cards/fare readily available – Keep the transport cards or your fare ready in the pocket. This quickens the boarding process. It also inhibits you from opening the wallet in crowded places, revealing the money and credit cards within. The more you display the money or expensive items on you, the more appealing a target you become for the thieves.
• Do not engage in rowdy behaviour – it is imperative that consumers be mindful of other commuters in the same transport and behave in cordial manner.
• Do not smoke or consume alcohol – commuters must never smoke or consume alcohol while travelling in public transports.
Council works with the Land Transport Authority
The Consumer Council of Fiji signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Land Transport Authority (LTA) for stringent enforcement of the Land Transport Authority Act to clamp down on public service vehicles that breach the Act. The consumers’ right to travel in public transportation safely and at a reasonable cost was slowly being stolen from them over the years. Both the organizations are undertaking their responsibility in ensuring consumer protection and rights concerning public transportation.
The Council urges consumers to do their part by becoming responsible patrons when travelling in public transportation. Consumers are encouraged to exercise their consumer responsibility and report any breaches of the law to LTA. It is important though for consumers to report accurately and hence taking note of necessary information like the taxi or bus number plate, time of journey and the route travelled which will assist LTA in tracking down non-complying vehicles.
Those with concerns can also contact the Council on toll free number 155 or email email@example.com. Alternatively, consumers can lodge complaints via the Consumer Council of Fiji Mobile App (now available for download on Google Playstore).