THE Consumer Council of Fiji is calling for an urgent review of the Moneylenders Act (Cap234) -law governing the money lending sector in the country.
Money lending is amongst a list of key focus areas that the Council is highlighting as it marks World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD) 2013 tomorrow (Friday, 15th March). “Consumer Justice Now – Call for Reforms” is the theme for WCRD 2013 and the Council is again focusing on financial services as a critical area where consumer injustice is rife.
The Council recognizes the fact that money lending has become a major source of credit for low-income workers in Fiji and the business has boomed in the past 5 years. The current number of licensed moneylenders is 818, which is 131% more than the number registered about 5 years ago. While money lending has boomed in the country, consumers are however bearing the full brunt of injustice in this sector with problems ranging from illegal interest rates to unfair terms and conditions. The Council is also concerned with the operations of illegal or unlicensed moneylenders who charge exorbitant interest and act against consumers in a way that tantamount to extortion.
The Council has identified the outdated Moneylenders Act (Cap 234) as a key legislation that needs to be reviewed so that users of money lending services are treated fairly and appropriate penalties are imposed against offending moneylenders and unlicensed operators.
The Council is recommending that the Moneylenders Act should be merged with the Consumer Credit Act and that there be strict implementation of the provisions for protecting the interests of borrowers.
We are also pushing for policymakers and regulatory agencies to curb the problem of unlicensed and illegal moneylenders through appropriate vigilance and penalty mechanisms.
The Council is also pushing for the business of money lending to be included in its proposed Consumer Protection law as a “service”, so that complaints against registered and unregistered money lenders can also be handled by the proposed Consumer Tribunal.
The Council hopes that tomorrow’s (Friday 15/03/13) World Consumer Rights Day will be an opportunity to highlight to policymakers the concerns of consumers and the need to review the Money lending Act.
Premila Kumar, Chief Executive Officer