CAPTION: Children of Andrews Primary School in Nadi during their prize giving day last year. Photo: PRASHANT NAICKER.
By PREMILA KUMAR, CEO, CONSUMER COUNCIL OF FIJI
The Consumer Council of Fiji is encouraging parents and guardians to purchase their children’s school uniforms based on their affordability and quality.
Council warning follows as a major retail outlet for school uniforms claims to be „preferred supplier‟ of school uniforms every year. Consumers should not believe that they have to buy uniforms from this particular retail outlet as they claim to be the “preferred supplier” of uniforms of the school their children are attending. Consumers are free to buy ready-made uniforms from any store they prefer or get uniforms even stitched at home.
Consumers should know that there is no such thing as “preferred supplier”. The question is who has bestowed this particular trader with the title of „preferred supplier‟? Although this self-claim is appearing in the print media every year, this does not mean that parents are obliged to buy uniforms from this particular outlet just because their children‟s school‟s name appears on the advertisement.
Parents and guardians should ignore such advertisement that is trying to limit consumer choice. Consumers have right to choose uniforms at competitive prices with an assurance of satisfactory quality. Denying consumers this right to choose will only worsen poverty and restrict low-income consumers to access uniforms and other school needs for their children which may result in children staying home.
On the other hand, if schools are directing students to buy school items from a particular store only, this engagement is called „exclusive buying‟. The Council once again would like to remind schools to refrain from encouraging and promoting „exclusive dealing‟ practices at their school. This has become a common practice during the start of a new school year where students and parents are forced to buy uniforms, shoes, stationery and other schooling needs from certain businesses only which is identified by schools.
Exclusive dealings increase the cost of education where the single trader dictates the price in the market which adds financial burden on parents and reduces the Governments effort to provide “education to all”.
Exclusive dealing is prohibited under section 69 of the Commerce Commission Decree 2010 and should school principals or managements reprimand parents/guardians or their children for defying their directive to purchase school requirements from the school selected trader/supplier, they should without hesitation lodge a complaint with the Consumer Council of Fiji, Fiji Commerce Commission, or the Ministry of Education.
The Council is emphasizing on comparative shopping as this enables parents to get the best deal for their hard earned money. Comparative shopping is simply moving around in different shops to get the best bargain that suits your budget.