Certain vendors registered under the Homes-CARE initiative have not applied discounted prices to their sale price, says the Consumer Council of Fiji.
Homes-CARE was incepted to assist Fijian homes impacted by the consecutive Tropical Cyclones Keni and Josie in April this year, and offers them $7000 on prepaid electronic cards to purchase repair material or to replace lost and damaged possessions.
Consumer Council chief executive officer, Premila Kumar said they were alarmed that some vendors continue to hike their prices to take advantage of natural disaster victims, and called for an end to discriminatory practises.
“Recipients of Homes-CARE assistance are being robbed of a chance to replace more household items because some unscrupulous vendors continue to use tactics to either push their old stock, hike prices, use promotions to entice consumers to spend all their money in their store or use discriminatory practise,” she said.
The Council found that the Labasa outlet of a prominent retail franchise made a list goods that could be bought at discounted prices by recipients of the assistance.
She added that while the Council took no issue with this, it was perplexing that the items on sale in the store could not be purchased at the sale price by Fijians on Homes-CARE assistance.
“This is due to the fact that the discounted products are not on the Homes-CARE list. Consumers instead are forced to pay the normal price for the goods on sale while other customers are able to reap the benefits of the sale price.”
The CEO added that as this store was the largest Homes-CARE vendor in Labasa, most customers in Fiji’s Northern division would purchase their household items there.
The Consumer Council of Fiji is questioning the discrepancy in how household items are sold to different consumers.
“Fijians on Homes-CARE assistance have already suffered the loss and damage of property. They should at the very least have the opportunity to purchase all goods at their sale price,” Kumar emphasized.
“Instead they are faced with unscrupulous traders fleecing them out of money meant to restore their lost possessions. It is disconcerting that goods were offered at discounted prices during festive seasons and other celebrations. However, the same special offers were not extended to people at critical times when they are trying to rebuild their lives after suffering through natural disasters.”
The CEO added that some items put on special as late as April had returned to normal prices early this month when the Government began the selection of traders and rolled out the Homes-CARE initiative.
The Consumer Council has advised consumers to be vigilant when using their Homes-CARE fund and to carefully evaluate where they make purchases from.
Under HOMES-CARE, households with an annual income less than $50,000 who have lost items in their homes or whose homes were damaged or destroyed in the cyclones can apply to receive prepaid electronic cards to purchase materials to repair their homes and replace possessions that were lost or badly damaged.
Those whose homes were totally destroyed or suffered severe structural damage qualify for $7,000 in relief assistance which can go towards the reconstruction of their home and to cover the replacement costs for lost possessions or household items, that includes television sets, furniture and housewares.
Those whose homes suffered partial structural damage in the cyclones, can apply for $3,000 in assistance to rebuild your home and replace your lost possessions. Those whose homes were not severely damaged, but had lost or damaged possessions beyond use by high flood waters are eligible for $3,000 in assistance.
People whose homes suffered minor water damage and who had some possessions lost or damaged can apply to receive $1,000 in assistance to make any repairs and replace their lost or damaged possessions.