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Fiji Time: 11:01 PM on Thursday 24 April

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Shoppers crowd city, watchdog advises

Mere Naleba
Sunday, January 20, 2013

MANY parents flocked into the Capital City yesterday to do their last-minute back to school shopping.

Bookshops, uniform suppliers and other businesses in the capital were jam-packed with members of the public trying to ensure their children's school needs were met before the start of the new school year on Tuesday.

The Consumer Council of Fiji is also issuing a warning to parents and guardians to ignore advertisements by some major retail outlets that are trying to limit consumer choices.

Council chief executive officer Premila Kumar in a statement yesterday said parents and guardians should buy their children's school uniforms based on their affordability and quality and not because some shops claimed that they were the "preferred supplier" of uniforms.

"Consumers are free to buy ready-made uniforms from any store they prefer or get uniforms even sewn at home.

"They should know that there is no such thing as 'preferred supplier', she said.

"They have the right to choose uniforms at competitive prices with an assurance of quality.

"Denying consumers this right to choose will only worsen poverty and restrict low-income consumers to access uniforms and other school needs for their children, which may result in children staying home," she said.

The Fiji Retailers Association however in responding to the statement said they had not come across any complaints from the public on being forced to purchase from one shop alone.

"I don't think it is happening where consumers are taking the advertisements seriously that — that particular shop is a preferred supplier," association president Himmat Lodhia said.

He explained that being termed a preferred supplier did not necessarily mean that the shop had exclusive rights to being the supplier of whatever school items they sold.

"According to the association they might be saying they are the preferred supplier but it does not mean that its exclusive."

Mr Lodhia assured customers they had freedom of choice when it came to choosing where to buy their children's school items from.

"Consumers are free to choose which shop they want to purchase goods from," he said.