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Land, fares make list

Geraldine Panapasa
Saturday, February 02, 2013

LAND developments, confusion over government's free textbook scheme and issues over bus fare concession cards for the elderly make up the list of new complaints lodged at the Consumer Council of Fiji this year.

This follows efforts by the council to raise awareness on consumer rights and unfair trading practices.

Chief executive officer Premila Kumar said the complaints were different from the usual complaints received in the past.

"One complaint from last year that we had not highlighted was land development where consumers buy a piece of land and want to subdivide it to sell again.

"There is a company that is basically misleading the public," she said.

"People have lost as much as $27,000. The company had been given the money to develop the land and it wasn't ready — the money couldn't be refunded as well because it was spent on lifestyle expenses.

"This is what we want to alert consumers about especially those who are thinking of buying land to be cautious of the people they are dealing with.

"We received a number of consumers were involved and a total of 16 complaints were lodged with us on this land issue."

Another new issue on the table at the council was government's free textbook initiative where concerned parents had raised concerns over having to buy textbooks written on supplied booklists from primary schools.

"We had written to one of the primary schools seeking clarification on this issue and the response we got was that the students were told not to get textbooks on the list with the author tagged 'MOE' referring to the Ministry of Education," Mrs Kumar said.

"We are still trying to sort this issue with the concerned school because government's effort is a good one and if it is not realised, who are we fooling."

Also on the new list of complaints were some bus operators refusing to accept the Social Welfare's bus fare concession cards for elderly citizens and traders refusing to accept credit cards unless consumers spend more than a certain amount of money.

"We received a complaint about a supermarket chain with conditions for using a credit card. Consumers had to buy $100 worth of goods to be able to use the credit card," she said.

"Ever since the Reserve Bank of Fiji imposed the no surcharge on credit cards — which is the rightful thing to happen — traders are putting restrictions on its use.

"This defeats the whole purpose of a credit card. It was created from the consumer and user perspective not the traders perspective."

She said the council would continue to monitor the new complaints, advising consumers to exercise caution at all times.





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