When central banks ‘steal’ from you

April 1, 2016

We refer to Professor Wadan Narsey’s write up titled “When central banks ‘steal’ from you” in your edition dated 26 March 2016.

The Council values Prof. Narsey’s keen interest in generating debate on pertinent issues affecting consumers’ socio-economic interest.

No doubt, the transition between the old currency and the new one, is an important issue as it affects public irrespective of rich or poor. How one rids off the old currency to get the new with the same face- value lies at the heart of the process of this change whenever a country introduces new currencies.

The common understanding is that there is collaboration between the central bank and the private banks to assist in currency reforms. The public plays a crucial role in ensuring that they do their part by returning the old currency to the Reserve Bank of Fiji (RBF) and the other banks operating in Fiji. RBF is the key party responsible for ensuring the success of the process.

Hence, we are still trying to understand why Prof. Narsey has chosen to rope the Council in. We work towards promoting consumer rights and interests in maintaining a fair marketplace. When we receive complaints from consumers against privately owned businesses or public sector, we act on them accordingly.

With the issue of currency reforms, no consumer has reported any concerns or complaints with regards to non-acceptance of currency by the central bank or any other banks. If there were such issues, we would have certainly acted in the matter.

This, however, does not mean that we have turned a blind eye on these important matters. There is a process which is in line with common international practice. People can go to their nearest banks if they are unable to come to RBF for some reason.  Perhaps Prof. Narsey should suggest an alternative way in which the currency can be collected, since, at the end of the day old coins and bank notes have to be returned to the central bank. 

We would also like the learned professor to explain how consumers are unfairly treated in a situation where the unused and unusable notes and coins are lying in RBF’s possession. Moreover, one needs to understand the role of Consumer Council of Fiji, which is, that of a consumer watchdog. It does not have powers to prosecute any traders and service providers against unfair trade practices in the marketplace.

The Council has a range of other pressing consumer-related complaints to deal with which is in public interest and we cannot just act irrationally about one particular subject just for the sake of it. We make public statements when there is a need to do so.

Prof. Narsey is more than welcome to lodge a formal complaint with the Council against RBF or any other bank in regard to this matter where his old currency was not accepted or not given the same value. We will certainly investigate it.