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Stepping Up Consumer Protection During Christmas

The month of celebrations and merry making is here, filled with unlimited family gatherings and entertainment. Now one thing that is common during festivities is increased shopping for goods and
01 Dec 2018 10:38
Stepping Up Consumer Protection During Christmas

The month of celebrations and merry making is here, filled with unlimited family gatherings and entertainment. Now one thing that is common during festivities is increased shopping for goods and services.

Whilst shopping is inevitable all year round, it substantially increases during festive periods.

With innumerable sales and promotions advertised, consumers are easily lured to engage in increased spending.

However, it is imperative for consumers to plan their finances properly during this time of the year, in order to avoid overspending.

It also becomes important for consumer protection agencies like the Fijian Competition and Consumer Commission (FCCC) to increase its presence on the ground to ensure consumers get value for their hard-earned money.

Often, traders and service providers tend to take advantage of consumers during festive periods whilst they are in a rush to complete their Christmas and New Year shopping.

In today’s article we take a look at how consumers can exercise their responsibility when out shopping and the activities undertaken by the FCCC to help ensure consumer protection.

 

Advise to consumers

This festive season be sure to take a while to scrutinise the ‘specials’ and ‘promotions’ before making a purchase. Outlined below are a few tips to help you be a smart shopper:

 

  • Scrutinise specials which are ‘too good to be true’

Before paying for an advertised product or service, ask yourself why is the price so low compared to the others? Unbelievably low price may be a tactic used by the seller to get rid of old or expired stock. So be sure to check the product properly before making a decision to purchase.

 

  • Focus on the ‘fine prints’

Advertisements may contain a lot of small details embedded at the bottom or on the sides. Always read the fine print, especially since misleading or vague fine prints may signify a trick or a false and misleading representation.

 

  • Seek clarity on ‘confusing pricing terms’

Some traders engage in advertisements to confuse buyers with misleading quotes or payment terms.

Terms such as ‘biggest sale’ and ‘lowest prices’ attached to specials can be misleading at times and confuses consumers. For instance, a product being advertised for sale stating ‘$3 weekly for 200 weeks’ whilst the item only costs $300.

 

 Limited information about the seller – online buying

If you are planning to purchase items online, then be sure to do a background search on the business. If the trader you wish to engage with is a scam then their true identity will be hidden and contact details may not be provided online. Some online sellers tend to give only their online business details but not the owners details, which can also raise questions. When goods or services are not supplied to consumers who place their orders online, consumers have difficulty to locate and identify the business owner.

 

  • Read the terms and

conditions

Read and understand the terms and conditions of a deal before making a decision to purchase the product or service.

 

  • Compare prices with other sellers

Particularly when intending to purchase white goods or products of higher value, be sure to compare prices for similar products and services offered by other companies.

 

  • Do not agree to a purchase if you feel uncomfortable

Companies using bait advertising tactics try to appeal to buyers’ and instill the fear of loss, at times.

They try to make you feel that if you do not purchase something, you made a trip for nothing. Do not fall for such strategies.

 

  • Research the seller beforehand

Learn what other people have to say about the seller, get a friend to go with you and assist you about alternative purchases if the original deal is no longer available.

Many reputable salespeople try to encourage customers to buy a different product if your intended product is out of stock.

 

The role of the FCCC during the festive season

To help ensure consumers get value for their money, the FCCC shall be present on the ground to engage in trader inspections throughout December.

Also, this will be done to ensure traders and service providers are in compliance with the Fijian Competition and Consumer Commission Act 2010 (FCCC Act 2010).

During inspections the FCCC issues infringement notices to traders and businesses who fail to comply with the FCCC Act 2010.

In the past the inspection team has noted issues of non- compliance amongst some traders which include; no price marking, price display, overcharging on Price Regulated Items and no marked pull dates.

Such inspections allow for traders, particularly those issued with infringement notices, to undertake appropriate remedial actions to ensure compliance.

The FCCC team revisits the traders issued with infringement notices to follow up on the compliance level.

In instances where non-compliance persists, traders are warned for possible prosecution.

While it is noted that a handful of traders engage in unethical acts, it is overwhelming to see majority of the businesses in compliance with the consumer protection laws.

The FCCC takes proactive approach to encourage voluntary compliance to the FCCC Act 2010 and doing business ethically.

Apart from trader inspections, the FCCC shall continue to engage in trader awareness sessions.

The key purpose of awareness raising is to highlight to the traders, ways of engaging in business within the ambit of the law.

In has been a norm in the past that during major festivals, in order to increase their profit margin and recover the losses from old or expired stock, some traders engage in unethical practices. Such actions however, have a negative impact on the consumers who struggle to get quality goods, save money and stick to their budget.

The FCCC through its proactive measures intends to ensure that traders do not breach provisions of the FCCC Act 2010 by engaging in prohibited acts.

At the same time, it wishes to ensure that consumers in Fiji are offered goods and services that are safe and are provided with adequate and accurate information about goods and services.

This is also part of the FCCC’s Strategic Goal 2.

This festive season the FCCC wants to ensure a fair marketplace for all Fijians.

Feedback:  maraia.vula@fijisun.com.fj

 

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