WE'RE a few days past Christmas and New Year's Day is almost upon us.
In a story we ran several Sundays ago the vula i gunugunu is a time for drinking and making merry. Before any partying is possible for an individual or group, someone or some people would have had to part with their money.
And even before the New Year celebrations have died down shops will already be advertising their back-to-school bargains.
In the midst of celebrating the end of one year and the beginning of another, and then getting our younger ones ready for another school year it may just be that we'll be suckered into buying things we really have no need for.
Never mind which is worse but there is also the possibility of buying something to satisfy a real need only to find out after having taken it home that the product does not work. Or works but not according to what you had been led to believe.
It must be said that not all traders or vendors are out to hoodwink us who make use of the goods and services they peddle.
The Consumer Council of Fiji while always ready to take up the fight on behalf of consumers against unscrupulous traders and practices would like first and foremost that we make our purchases after some thought.
Manager EU projects at the Consumer Council of Fiji, Bindula Prasad, said the council had always used the media in its bid to enlighten consumers on the ins and outs of hire-purchase agreements. In among all this it has also urged customers to thoroughly check whatever it is they are going to buy before actually making the purchase.
However if after all that has been said and written to keep consumers on the alert some find they are still not happy with services and products they have purchased, the council is more than happy to remind them there is such an organisation known as the Small Claims Tribunal , SCT.
The council readily points out that the SCT is already in existence as opposed to the proposed small complaints tribunal. Proposal for this tribunal as had been explained was one of the results from the work of a consultant, Shirish Deshpande.
The proposed complaints tribunal as has already been explained in an article in The Fiji Times on Saturday December 8 will have two benches, the original and the appellate benches.
Deshpande had also recommended that to better serve consumers, the council propose there be a financial ombudsman or an independent financial commission that will have the power to basically deal with issues relating to financial institutions.
At the moment, those who feel they have been wronged by a financial institution can take their grievances to the Complaints Management Forum within the Reserve Bank of Fiji (RBF).
However it must be pointed out that this forum, which was set up in 2009 under the Banking Supervision Policy Number 13, only handles complaints against financial institutions licensed by the RBF. Officials at the consumer council said this basically meant the banks.
At a November 27, 2012 presentation, the forum's outcomes were said to be; effectively and efficiently resolving and entertaining reasonable complaints, sharing ideas and expertise on resolving recurring consumerism issues and to have a greater understanding of what consumers and financial system players are thinking
Also at the November presentation it was revealed the role of this forum can be broken down into six areas; complaints, presentation, panel discussion, projects/initiatives, communication and feedback.
In the meantime, given With all the feasting that goes on at this time of the year, coupled with the hot weather, it won't be surprising if one or two in the family fall sick. After all the mechanism that is the human body, like any other finely engineered gadget has its limitations.
For those who regularly may push past the limits of their endurance, they may during this festive season, apart from having to slow down a bit, have to buy some medicines to right the wrongs of their ailing machines.
Some of these medicines have conditions that are to be followed if they are to be fully effective.
Consumers who have complaints against pharmacies and pharmacists are advised to take their contention up with the Pharmacy Board.
It is an entirely different matter if they wish to lodge a complaint against a certain medicine which they might feel has not done what it was supposed to do.
Bindula says the body to which they are to address their complaints has been set up under the Medicinal Products Decree 2011. She stressed it is important for consumers to know the different functions of this body from that of the Pharmacy Board. The body set up by the 2011 decree will deal with pharmaceuticals, not pharmacies and/or pharmacists.