Rise in Consumer Complaints: A Cause for Concern

August 24, 2022

In order to ‘weather-out’ the current global economic challenges and to remain relevant and survive, it is imperative that businesses build consumer trust by engaging in ethical business practices. This reminder for businesses to ‘pull up their socks’ is being issued as latest statistics indicates an increase in consumer complaints by 17% in the 2021-2022 Financial Year (FY) compared to the 2020-2021 FY: with a staggering monetary value of $5.5 million.

“Learning to value the complaints made by consumers is an important step which businesses can assume to take their company to the next level. When businesses understand how to handle them, complaints can be turned into constructive opportunities for their team and business to grow. Complaints give a first-hand perspective of how your customers feel and are actually the real feedback that businesses can get if addressed carefully,” stated CCoF Chief Executive Ms Seema Shandil.

The Council is particularly concerned with the number of grievances being raised by residential tenants which has continued to be at the top of the complaints list – 10% of total complaints lodged pertained to landlord and tenancy issues in the last FY. Tenants across Fiji continued to face issues such as landlords refusing to refund bond, illegal disconnection of utilities, illegal eviction notices, increasing rent despite the rent freeze in place, not issuing tenancy agreements and even failing to issue receipts for rent paid.

The second most common type of complaints lodged by consumers pertained to food and drinks which made up 9.5% of total complaints lodged during the FY. An analysis of complaints reveals that certain traders continued to sell poor quality/expired food products, food establishments were found to be in unhygienic conditions, presence of pest/foreign materials in food, not providing product labeling/ foreign labeling of food products, and sale of banned meat products.

“Complaints relating to food and drinks is astounding due to the malignancy of its effects on consumers. Issues such as the sale of expired and banned products show a high level of negligence and profiteering behavior; with no regard and care for customers,” added Ms. Shandil.

Complaints regarding electronic goods ranked third; up from fifth in the previous FY and account for 6.5% of total complaints registered during the financial year. The nature of complaints related to non-availability of spare parts or after-sales services; long periods of time taken for repairs; products becoming defective shortly after use; warranty terms and conditions not being honored and repairs being conducted in a shoddy manner.

Issues relating to public transport were rife during the financial year making up 5.6% of total complaints registered. Consumers showcased their frustration over issues such as buses not following designated routes and allocated times, incorrect fares being charged by public service drivers, poor customer service, refusing short taxi-runs, unhygienic condition of public transports and careless driving.

Given the increased use of e-commerce platforms in Fiji, many consumers were also duped out of their hard-earned cash by certain unscrupulous online operators. 4.4% of the complaints registered were relating to online shopping with consumers reporting cases of non-delivery of goods after payments, misleading advertisements, products not matching advertisements, lack of communication with consumers and customer calls being ignored or blocked on receipt of full payments.

Other categories of complaints which were recorded in the top 10 complaints for the financial year included; mobile products, hardware, advertisements and promotions, Vat/duty/receipts and customer service.

Ms Shandil has provided reassurances that the Council is working even more tirelessly to ensure that these prevalent issues are addressed in an amicable manner.

“In this new financial year, we will direct increased efforts and resources towards the different sectors identified above given the prevalence of these issues in our marketplace. It is astonishing to see that certain traders; despite the economic challenges, continued their level best to shell out as much as they could from consumers’ pockets. There are players in the marketplace which need to be weeded out,” she added.

The Council will continue to work with different enforcement bodies to ensure unethical and unscrupulous businesses are held accountable.

The Council encourages consumers who continue to face issues in the marketplace to call us on toll-free helpline 155 or email complaints@consumersfiji.org. Alternatively, they can lodge complaints via the Consumer Council of Fiji Mobile App.

Consumers can also message us directly on the Consumer Council Facebook page or email us at complaints@consumersfiji.org.