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World Consumer Rights Day

‘Our home our rights: Fighting for transparency in mortgagee sales’ By CONSUMER COUNCIL OF FIJI Fiji Sun: What is World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD) and its significance? Council: World Consumer
11 Mar 2012 12:31

‘Our home our rights: Fighting for transparency in mortgagee sales’

By CONSUMER COUNCIL OF FIJI

The Consumer Council of Fiji would like to see some change in the Consumer Credit Act to better protect both parties, that is, the borrower and the lender.

Fiji Sun: What is World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD) and its significance?
Council: World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD) is an annual occasion for celebration and   solidarity within the international consumer movement.
WCRD was first observed on March 15, 1983, and has since become an important annual occasion. Consumer organisations around the world put on special campaigns, press conferences, public exhibitions, workshops, street events or new publications, to mark the event. The underlying aim of WCRD is to highlight an important issue of concern to consumers. It is an opportunity to promote the basic rights of all consumers, for demanding those rights are respected and protected, and for protesting the market abuses and social injustices which undermine them.

Fiji Sun: What is the theme for this year?
Council: The international theme for WCRD 2012 is “Our money, our rights: campaigning for real choice in financial services”. The local theme for Fiji this year is “Our Home Our Rights: Fighting for Transparency in Mortgagee Sale”.

Fiji Sun: Why was this theme picked for Fiji?
Council: The Consumer Council is focusing on mortgagee sale to highlight policies and practices that work against consumers. There is lack of transparency in the manner a mortgagee sale is conducted. Vulnerable consumers are taken advantage of by bigger and powerful financial institutions.

Fiji Sun: How will the Council mark the event this year?
Council: The council has organised a programme at the Southern Cross Hotel Suva to mark this event.
The aim is to have a healthy panel discussion between the key players involved directly or indirectly in the mortgage sale. The idea is voice out concerns and to identify policy changes needed to better protect home owners. The speakers are as follows:
Panel Discussion: Chaired by Dr. Ganesh Chand, Vice Chancellor FNU
1. Kevin McCarthy, Chairman, Association of Banks Fiji (ABIF)
2. Dr Rohit Kishore, Senior Lecturer, USP (Academic)
3. Colin Sibary, Chairman, Real Estate Agents Licensing Board (REALB)
4. Esala Masitabua, Chief Manager, Financial Institutions Group, (RBF)
5. Anare Vadei, Director Trades and Standards, Ministry of Industry & Trade
6. Premila Kumar, CEO, Consumer Council of Fiji
The chief guest at the event will be Minister for Industry and Trade, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.  Following the event in the central division, the Council will be holding series of workshops in Northern and Western region including Levuka.

Fiji Sun: What does the council hope to achieve by focusing on mortgagee sale?
Council: The council is hoping that policymakers and stakeholders will seriously consider implementing fair rules to govern the sale of mortgaged property.
The council would like to see some change in the Consumer Credit Act to better protect both parties, that is, the borrower and the lender.

Fiji Sun: What could be one positive change to help a home owner?
Council: We would like to see public auction rather than mortgagee sale. Public Auctions would be a fairer and more transparent way of selling off repossessed properties.
Auctions to be made mandatory and regulations are imposed to control the bidding process so that everyone knows their rights, responsibilities and obligations during the auction process.
Unlike mortgagee sales, auctions can reveal the true market value of a property and are conducted in an open forum where all bids are known and participants are given immediate feedback on the property’s value.
Auctions also eliminate long negotiation periods where interest pile up.
Through auction buyers know they are competing fairly and on the same terms as all other buyers and receives comprehensive information on property.
Any consumer taking part in an auction can easily and quickly make market comparisons when they see biddings at the same place and at the same time.

Fiji Sun: General advice or message to consumers.
Council: You have the obligation to immediately contact your credit providers if you are facing difficulty in making your monthly payment on your home loan.
The credit provider also has the obligation to analyze and ascertain how genuine your  financial situation maybe and as such provide options to you to restructure the account in order to help you to pay back your loan and avoid your property being put on mortgagee sale. Demand Notice or Default Notice should not be ignored. The best thing to do is to act quickly.



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