World Consumer Rights Day

CAPTION: Consumer Council of Fiji CEO Premila Kumar. Photo: SHALENDRA PRASAD.

Call for reforms in the financial sector is what the Council will be lobbying for to mark the World Consumer Rights Day on Friday 15 March 2013.

This is in par with this year’s theme “Consumer Justice Now – Call for Reforms”, during which the Council aims to highlight the current discrepancies and unfair practices in the financial sector.

During the World Consumer Rights Day Celebrations, injustices faced by consumers in the Hire Purchase Industry, Mortgagee Sales Processes, Insurance Industry, Data Bureau operations will be highlighted. At the same time the need for review of the Money Lenders Act Cap 234 and Consumer Credit Act 1999 will also be bought to the forefront.

The Council has also given relative stakeholders a chance to rebut these injustices that will be highlighted at the forum. It is envisaged that an open, fair and meaningful discussion on the issues are needed to find a way forward for the reforms.

To attain that economic prosperity consumers face a range of problems and challenges when they take credit or loans.  In many cases the service providers take advantage of weak laws and poor enforcement.

While the Council understands that consumers’ need financial institutions and hire purchase companies and vice versa for economic growth but there is currently no powers to penalise unscrupulous financial institutions. Similarly there is no provision to compensate consumers who were wronged by the financial institution.

What is strongly needed is an independent financial commission with powers that provide an inexpensive, timely and efficient redress/compensation to consumers.

Furthermore, the establishment of such a commission with regulatory powers will ensure that money lenders are regulated whilst reviewing the Money Lending Act Cap 234, as currently there is no appropriate body which curbs unscrupulous practises of money lenders. The independent financial commission is further intended to review and enforce the Consumer Credit Act.

The Council sees the financial arena as an urgent call for reform as complaints received against financial institutions have led consumers to lose either their homes or entire life’s savings. It is about time that consumers are given an opportunity for their grievances and disputes to be heard ensuring that justice prevails through fairness and transparency.  It is about time consumer justice is seriously given the attention .

Premila Kumar

Chief Executive Officer

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