Challenge for council

One of the main challenges we face is that there are no provisions for compensation to consumers under Fiji’s laws, says Consumer Council of Fiji CEO Premila Kumar.

Ms Kumar was making a presentation to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Social Affairs on Thursday in response to certain questions the committee had raised in respect of the council’s 2014 annual report.

“For any compensation claims consumers will have to take their cases to the courts,” she said.

Ms Kumar said redress mechanisms were also limited or unavailable in some instances and other alternative measures were expensive.

“And the Commerce Commission Decree 2010 only provides for fines against unscrupulous traders and does not provide for compensation for aggrieved consumers,” Ms Kumar said.

She said one of the other challenges the council faced in its consumer advocacy was that consumers often lacked the will to come out in public with their complaints.

“Most often consumers do not want their cases or issues to be publicised.”

Ms Kumar also pointed out that Fijian consumers lacked the will to take action in solidarity or as a group.

“Maybe it’s a cultural issue but then the burden falls heavily on the Consumer Council,” she said.

She began highlighting the lack of compensation provisions and other challenges faced by the council after committee member Ruveni Nadalo asked how successful the council had been in trying to set up compensation laws.

Ms Kumar said the council was only an advocacy organisation that worked to protect the rights and interests of consumers by empowering them on their rights and responsibilities.

“We also identify unfair trade practices, and articulate policy issues that have adverse effect on consumers.”

She said they were not empowered to seek compensation for consumers although they could appear as a witness for consumers in court proceedings.