The Fijian Competition and Consumer Commission says they know some traders in the country are involved in unethical practices, and the FCCC is taking a multi-faceted approach through joint inspections with the city and town councils, having community consumer champions, and making the reporting system for overcharging of consumers more accessible.
In an interview with fijivillage News, FCCC CEO, Joel Abraham says they have signed a MOU with the Ministry of iTaukei Affairs to use representatives on the ground that can receive complaints on behalf of the FCCC. They are also looking at ATM type set ups for complaints in towns that do not have a FCCC office, and there are more innovative ways that will be rolled out in the coming days that gives easier access to consumers to file complaints, and also allow the FCCC to conduct rigorous and targeted inspections.
There is also a medium term plan where they will remove the paper based shelf labels to digital shelf labels in the supermarkets, and this will result in the FCCC getting alerts immediately on any price changes that are beyond the approved amount for price control items.
Abraham says this will take about 2 years if they receive the approval to go ahead.
He has also spoken about e-inspections, price checker systems at supermarkets for consumers to easily check the approved prices and temperature monitoring.
He says some retailers to save power are turning off freezers at night, and this results in goods like ice cream melting and freezing again.
This has major health issues as the sugar gets crystalised.
Abraham also says they have conducted 16,568 inspections this year of which 410 different breaches have been picked up.
He says the FCCC has to follow the process of natural justice.
Abraham says we do have unscrupulous traders who are taking advantage of the situation.
He says they have successfully prosecuted retailers for overcharging – there was a retailer who was overcharging people for cooking gas and the court implemented a fine of $2,000.
There have also been cases of overcharging consumers for baby milk, rice, corned mutton, powdered milk, kerosene and other fuel products
He says traders in some areas have been resorting to such practices and then say they did not know the price had been reduced.
They have filed charges with regards to VAT against one retailer.
The FCCC has another active investigation against a major supermarket for increasing the price of chicken from $17 to $25.
Abraham says the evidence is being gathered, the explanations are being assessed, and the trader is saying the staff made an error and has been given a warning letter.
He says they want to test the law because they have always been saying that our law requires some revision. Abraham has also thanked Deputy Prime Minister, Manoa Kamikamica who has been very instrumental to get the reviews done and they are currently in the process of drafting subsidiary regulations that help them in doing inspections around food regulations and expiry dates.
He adds people are quite right that when the FCCC leaves after inspections, some retailers increase the prices again.
Abraham says they continue to address these matters.
He also says price increases are also based on global events that cannot be helped.
You can watch his interview on our website, fijivillage.
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