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Taskforce Looks Into Business Response To Care Initiative

Taskforce Looks Into Business Response To Care Initiative
May 22
11:29 2018

The Fiji Consumer and Competition Commission (FCCC) will not hesitate to exercise its powers strictly on al­legations against traders through a joint taskforce with the Consum­er Council.

In a press conference at the FCCC Office in Suva yesterday, Commis­sion chief executive officer Joel Abraham revealed the joint task­force would specify objectives un­der the Homes-CARE initiative.

Mr Abraham said while there would be certain practices that may or may not constitute breach­es, there could have been practices that maybe outright unethical.

He said after the assessment of TC Keni and TC Josie the Fijian Government announced the CARE for Fiji initiative, under this ini­tiative are the homes-CARE, farm, sugarcane, lease holders care, eTransport, and welfare CARE as­sistance.

“While we see these initiatives rolled out, we understand this is targeted towards the vulnerable, those who were affected by the cyclones and those whose house­hold income is less than a certain threshold,” Mr Abraham said.

“While the Ministry for Economy is doing an excellent job to take audits of the recipients to ensure that the relief package is correctly used, we believe the private sector needs to be put under the same de­gree of scrutiny.”

He said the FCCC was concerned with the manner in which some businesses responded to the initia­tive.

Mr Abraham said some prelimi­nary assessments showed that recipients have been told to swipe cards and wait for delivery of goods at a later date with the later dates not confirmed

He said prices of goods have been reverted where the traders say the prices are no longer on spe­cial, where prices are high, there has been a certain degree of price rises.

Instances where prices have been increased because of high demand is another matter of concern for the commission.

“We would like to formally an­nounce that we are investigating it and most of the resources of FCCC is now targeted towards undertak­ing this investigation,” Mr Abra­ham said.

Consumer Council CEO Premila Kumar confirmed that the coun­cil received five complaints on the National Consumer Helpline on the Homes-CARE initiative in the Western Division and one on the Farms CARE initiative from Tai­levu.

“People have been raising their concerns because they always in­tended to buy their white goods af­ter losing them during the floods, so they were keeping tabs on the prices and when the initiative was rolled out they went back to those stores and were surprised to find that the prices went up,” she said.

She said this prompted the coun­cil to carry out its own investiga­tion.

Naming two traders one in the Northern Division, Ms Kumar said tactics were used by some traders included money back promotions encouraging or luring consumers to spend up to $1500 so that they get $200 back.

Meanwhile, Mr Abraham clari­fied that the laws as of August 1, 2017, through the Budget Amend­ment Act showed further powers had been given to FCCC and they would exercise their powers.

He said the general consumer protection provisions under part 7 of FCCC Act 2010 covered a whole range of issues ranging from mis­leading and deceptive conduct, false misleading representation, false and misleading advertising.

Mr Abraham said fines or pen­alties could be up to $50,000 once thorough investigations and inter­views were done.

He added that imprisonment de­pended on the history of the trad­ers and the courts, which had pro­visions for jail sentences up to 10 years.

Edited by Epineri Vula

Feedback: losirene.lacanivalu@fijisun.com.fj

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