THE countdown has begun to the biggest religious festival that people of all races always look forward to — Christmas.
But with the countdown towards the day to celebrate the birth of Lord Jesus Christ comes the need for money to enjoy the celebrations.
While some people save up for the day, others are forced to run to moneylenders to get that extra money which may be needed in their homes for various reasons.
And in the desperate need for money, many people do not bother whether they are going to registered moneylenders or those who operate illegally.
The Consumer Council of Fiji says the Moneylenders Act was the only guideline available to moneylenders on how they should run the moneylending business.
It said the key features of the Act are declaring moneylending a legitimate business and mandatory annual registration of moneylenders.
Every January, the Registrar of Moneylenders is required to publish a full list of all licensed moneylenders in the Gazette and any person not on the list is deemed not to be a moneylender, said the council.
The council said moneylenders were forbidden to advertise and they also cannot employ agents or representatives to invite any person to borrow money.
"It is illegal for a moneylender to lure or force any person to borrow money or agree to the terms on which money is borrowed," said the council.
"A written contract between the moneylender and the borrower should be made and duly signed for the purpose of borrowing.
"Any money lent before a contract is made or before a contract is signed cannot be enforced."
The council said the contract should contain the date of loan, principal amount loaned/borrowed, rate of interest, parties name, duration of loan, repayment start and finish date and the parties signatures.
"A moneylender must provide the borrower a stamped receipt for repayments made as proof or evidence of payment."
"A statement must also be issued by the lender to show reducing loan balance. The maximum interest that can be charged by a moneylender is 12 per cent per annum.
"An interest over 12 per cent per annum is regarded as excessive and the transaction is deemed harsh, unconscionable and substantially unfair," said the council.