Inter-island Shipping Companies; Back to its Shoddy Ways

December 15, 2022

As thousands of Fijians are anticipated to be travelling via inter-island shipping vessels this holiday season, two shipping operators are already under the radar for breaching not only consumer rights but consumer protection laws in place.

One of these inter-island shipping services providers is not issuing proof of purchase such as a receipt or a retainable copy of the ticket to its customers whilst another is not honoring the quotation provided for transporting goods; increasing the cost considerably at the time of boarding.

Whilst reminding inter-island shipping operators that failing to issue proof of purchase is a breach of consumer protection laws, CCoF Chief Executive Officer Ms Seema Shandil said shipping operators need to either provide a receipt or a duplicate copy of the ticket that consumers can keep; which is the usual practice by most shipping companies.

“It is bewildering that the inter-island shipping operator in question is only providing one copy of the ticket to its customers which are collected by the vessel staff during boarding, leaving them with (1) no proof of the money spent and (2) no avenues for redress if there is a need,” said Ms Shandil.

Given that the above practice is illegal and breaches the FCCC Act 2010, the Council has flagged the matter to the Fijian Competition and Consumer Commission for enforcement action.

“Not issuing proof of purchase such as receipts is clearly a breach of the FCCC Act hence, the Council has flagged the matter to its custodian; expecting enforcement action against the inter-island shipping operator,” added Ms Shandil.

Meanwhile, in relation to increasing the cost for transporting goods, the Council has received complaints that when customers call the inter-island shipping service provider requesting for the cost to transport certain goods, a verbal quote is given. However, during time of boarding the cost dramatically increases.

“This above case demonstrates that the shipping operator has no cost structure in place but simply dictates cost on a whim; whatever may seem profitable to them. This is an outrageous breach of consumer rights and amounts to unconscionable conduct,” said Ms Shandil.

Whilst the Council will be on the lookout for these issues and expects enforcement bodies to come down hard against these illegal and unethical practices, consumers are urged to be assertive and always demand for a receipt; this is YOUR RIGHT. Consumer must also get the costs for transporting goods in written whenever possible so that evidence can be produced in case costs are inflated at time of boarding.

Consumers facing similar issues are encouraged to contact the Council on toll-free line 155 or lodge a complaint using the Consumer Council of Fiji mobile app.