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Consumers take ownership of rights

Geraldine Panapasa
Monday, February 04, 2013

CONSUMERS have taken on a proactive approach when it comes to their rights and responsibilities and this is evident in the increasing number of complaints handled by the Consumer Council of Fiji since 2006.

Council chief executive officer Premila Kumar said 13,467 complaints had been registered from consumers over the past seven years while 7794 complaints were resolved and closed through mediation for the same period.

"We've referred 1187 consumer complaints to the Small Claims Tribunal and 1081 to other authorities from 2006 to 2012.

"More than 5300 complaints were given advice but not registered," she said.

The highest number of complaints was registered in 2006 with 2397 concerns from the public while 1301 was the lowest number of registered complaints in 2007.

From 2010 to 2012, the council noted fluctuating figures in the number of complaints from 2251 to 2232 respectively.

In terms of resolution, the council continued a positive streak over the years resolving 727 complaints through mediation in 2006, 824 in 2007, 955 in 2008 and 902 in 2009.

In 2010, the council resolved 1348 cases, 1306 complaints in 2011 and 1732 last year.

"There is no consumerism if there are no traders or service providers.

"Unfair trading practices are rife in the marketplace.

"Consumers are being cheated and in our consumer world, there is no such thing as 'mistake'," Mrs Kumar said.

She said a mistake was a mistake and those making them should not expect the council to understand.

"Some business people have commented that they do make genuine mistakes and when this happens, the council should understand.

"But why should we understand?

"If a doctor makes a mistake, should you say it's acceptable if you have stringent laws or if a pharmacist overdoses you, would you say that's a mistake?

"There is no room for mistakes because if traders make a mistake and it's a cost to me as a consumer, I should not accept that mistake.

"It is for this reason consumer protection laws are in place which clearly tells the business world you cannot make that mistake."

She said consumer protection laws were categorised into different forms making it easy for them to identify an unfair trading practice.





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