Res­i­dents of La­jo­nia Get In­sight on Cost of Liv­ing

Fiji Sun - - Business - Source: Fi­jian Com­pe­ti­tion and Con­sumer Com­mis­sion Feed­back: maraia.vula@fi­

The Res­i­dents of La­jo­nia com­mu­nity in Labasa were given an in­sight on the re­al­ity of cost of liv­ing on Fri­day. The com­mu­nity ses­sion which is part of Fi­jian Com­pe­ti­tion and Con­sumer Com­mis­sion’s (FCCC) on­go­ing com­mu­nity en­gage­ment was fa­cil­i­tated by the chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Joel Abra­ham amidst more than 70 peo­ple in at­ten­dance.

In ad­dress­ing the com­mu­nity mem­bers, Mr Abra­ham ex­plained the is­sue of cost of liv­ing and how the is­sue can be tack­led by con­sumers.

He in­formed them on how the price reg­u­la­tion role un­der­taken by FCCC con­trib­utes to the af­ford­able cost of liv­ing in Fiji.

Re­spond­ing to ques­tions by peo­ple

Re­spond­ing to ques­tions by peo­ple, Mr Abra­ham ex­plained that cost of liv­ing is more than the prices of goods in a su­per­mar­ket, it re­lates to trans­porta­tion, phone costs, in­ter­net charges, cloth­ing, ed­u­ca­tion, and other gen­eral cat­e­gories where peo­ple spend. More­over, through var­i­ous pol­icy mech­a­nisms FCCC has sought to re­move volatil­ity from prices to avoid price shocks. He ex­plained that mo­bile calls and in­ter­net charges had re­duced through the lib­er­al­i­sa­tion of ac­cess into the South­ern Cross net­work ca­ble; travel costs such as bus fares, elec­tric­ity prices, wa­ter, postal ser­vices prices have re­mained con­stant over sev­eral years as these are reg­u­lated by FCCC.

It is easy to fo­cus on su­per­mar­ket goods; how­ever, it is im­por­tant to note that Fiji is a price taker.

In­ter­na­tion­ally, prices in­crease and as such FCCC en­sures that the in­creases are capped so con­sumer will not end up pay­ing more than the con­trolled prices.

It is im­por­tant to en­sure the sur­vival of the busi­ness com­mu­nity as well.

It is un­fair to say that su­per­mar­ket own­ers and ven­dors are pur­pose­fully in­creas­ing prices.

In fact, the pri­vate sec­tor is work­ing with FCCC to en­sure bet­ter prices for con­sumers. FCCC has changed its ap­proach to fo­cus­ing more on pro­mot­ing com­pe­ti­tion which leads to sus­tain­able so­lu­tions in terms of prices for the Fi­jian mar­ket.

One only needs to pick up the lo­cal news­pa­pers to see mul­ti­ple pages of ad­ver­tise­ments be­ing put out by su­per­mar­kets.

Mr Abra­ham ex­plained that it’s easy for peo­ple to say that prices can be in­creased or re­duced but in re­al­ity it’s not the case as FCCC needs to in­de­pen­dently and fairly as­sess the prices to en­sure that we are fair on the busi­ness and the con­sumer.

Role of FCCC

It is the role of the FCCC to look into such mat­ters. He added that the price of cer­tain items fluc­tu­ates due to num­ber of rea­sons, such as, the im­por­ta­tion cost, pro­cess­ing cost, cartage cost and so forth.

He stated that Fiji is a price taker as ma­jor­ity of the items are im­ported in Fiji.

He also ex­plained that while the prices of items in­crease at times, it de­creases as well.

This is based on the in­ter­na­tional prices of items which are be­yond Fiji’s con­trol. How­ever, FCCC con­tin­ues to look for best prac­tices for pric­ing to en­sure con­sumer af­ford­abil­ity. Mr Abra­ham en­cour­aged the mem­bers of the com­mu­nity to be smart con­sumers and urged them to al­ways ask ques­tions.

About false prom­ises

He high­lighted that con­sumers should not be mis­led by mis­in­for­ma­tion and mis­con­cep­tions but rather an­a­lyse ev­ery in­for­ma­tion be­ing shared and make their own in­formed de­ci­sions.

The com­mu­nity peo­ple were told to ques­tion in­for­ma­tion which do not make sense and not to give in to false prom­ises.

As far as con­cerns re­gard­ing cost of liv­ing, pric­ing of goods etc. is con­cerned, they can al­ways re­vert to FCCC for clar­i­fi­ca­tions rather than be­ing swayed by wrong in­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing pric­ing of goods.

Fur­ther, em­pha­sis was placed on the im­por­tance of de­mand­ing for re­ceipts and re­tain­ing re­ceipts, ex­er­cis­ing con­sumer re­spon­si­bil­ity when shop­ping and voic­ing con­cerns when they come across is­sues so that mat­ters af­fect­ing con­sumers can be high­lighted and ad­dressed ac­cord­ingly.

Pradeep Ma­haraj who or­gan­ised the ses­sion at his res­i­dence said that it was an eye opener for many as it gave a re­al­is­tic pic­ture of pric­ing of goods and ser­vices in Fiji. It also al­lowed the com­mu­nity mem­bers to seek clar­i­fi­ca­tions on mat­ters af­fect­ing them di­rectly with the CEO.

Mr Ma­haraj added that the ses­sion was very knowl­edge­able and as con­sumers they will need to start ex­er­cis­ing their rights and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties.

The FCCC has as­sured the com­mu­nity peo­ple that such ed­u­ca­tional fo­rums are not one off and shall con­tinue to take place. Be­ing an in­de­pen­dent statu­tory body and as an apo­lit­i­cal or­gan­i­sa­tion, it is FCCC’s role to ed­u­cate mem­bers of the pub­lic on its op­er­a­tional func­tions, give them the cor­rect in­for­ma­tion and en­sure they are aware of their rights and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties con­sumers.

The com­mu­nity ses­sion which is part of Fi­jian Com­pe­ti­tion and Con­sumer Com­mis­sion’s (FCCC) on­go­ing com­mu­nity en­gage­ment was fa­cil­i­tated by the chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Joel Abra­ham.

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