By PREMILA KUMAR – CEO, CONSUMER COUNCIL OF FIJI
The Consumer Council of Fiji is calling on Hansons Supermarket not to misleadingly portray itself as a trader with “substantial goodwill and reputation” as contained in its press release published in the Fiji Times on 5th January 2013 (p.61).
The Consumer Council has recorded many bad practices by Hansons in the past several years. Our market surveillance and complaints record can attest to this.
The Council‟s letters to Hansons Supermarket are most often not replied to and its Makoi outlet continues to be a problem as our regular market surveillance has found many problems from expired goods to unhygienic conditions.
For example in February 2010, our staff found expired soft drinks on sale on the shelves. Our letter to Hansons on the issue was not replied to, although the items were removed. In March 2010 we found conditional selling of sugar at this supermarket, whereby customers could only purchase sugar if they spend $10 or more at the store.
In September 2011, the Council reported Hansons to the Fiji Commerce Commission (FCC) for issuing non-itemized receipts.
Their receipts did not provide the individual item names and other details that a consumer purchased and thus restricting the consumer‟s ability to seek redress in case of overcharging or return of bad products. In February 2011, the Council received complaints in regards to Hansons‟ 200g Cook’s Choice Natrala soya chunks where a live fly was found inside a sealed packet of this product.
The product packaging also did not have an expiry date. The issue was the subject of a Fiji One television news report on 6th Feburary 2011. The Council is aware that Hansons was fined $1034.50 by the Court for conditional selling of 1litre packets of Rewa Life milk. Last year our market surveillance found a dirty spice section at the store and requested them to take necessary action.
The Council‟s market surveillance and complaints from consumers in the past several years have also found other issues such as absence of price tags on some items and half-cut rotten fruits being re-packed for sale.
The Council finds it rather naïve for Hansons to publicly declare itself as a trader that has “substantial goodwill and reputation” and that it will continue “providing the excellent service that it has been doing so over the years”.
The below standard of services and problems associated with this supermarket has led the Council to include Hansons as a „must-check‟ trader during its regular market surveillance.
The bad practices by Hansons are also a major concern for the Council because of the fact that it serves an area densely populated by ordinary and low-income consumers. The Council is aware of other supermarket chains who have branches located in similar areas and take advantage of the situation by engaging in unscrupulous business practices.