- Slides: 17
RESOLVING CHALLENGES IN REAL ESTATE “Consumer Protection and Awareness” Presenter: Ms. Senikavika L. Jiuta General Manager Operations Fijian Competition and Consumer Commission
Presentation Outline OVERVIEW OF FIJIAN COMPETITION & CONSUMER COMMISSION CONSUMER PROTECTION ISSUES CONCLUDING REMARKS QUESTIONS & ANSWERS STATISTICS
• Established under Section 7 of the Fijian Competition and Consumer Commission Act 2010 (FCCC Act 2010) to look into the following: Ø To promote competition in the Fijian markets The Role of FCCC Ø To regulate industries where competition is likely to be lessened, weakened or nonexistent Ø To control prices of goods and services where competition is lessened or weakened and is considered essential Ø To protect consumers from unfair trade practices.
• Housing is a need for any individual; • Affordable and safe housing is important to the well-being and health of families; • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes right of any human to adequate housing; • UN Guidelines for Consumer Protection promotes strengthening of national policies to improve the supply, distribution and quality of affordable housing to consumers according to their economic circumstances; • Plays a critical role in growth and development of Fiji; • However, owning a house comes with many challenges
Why Consumers Engage Real Estate Agents • Trust • Limited knowledge and skills • Avoid paperwork • Better Access/More Convenience • Transparent dealings • Thorough Record Keeping • Qualification & Experience
Consumer Concerns • Non-Disclosure of Property Details: Land Title, Land Area, Location, Land Type, Remaining Tenure etc. • Price Disclosures • Commission charged too high • Failure to Refund Bonds • Tenancy Agreements • Property Maintenance: Cleanliness, Repairs and Replacements. • Miscommunication • Delay in Property settlements
Some of the Unethical Practices in the Market a) Non Disclosure of Property Prices – a crucial factor which allows consumers to decide on their purchasing power. Use of VEP. b) Unlicensed Real Estate engaged in Real Estate Activities – Risk to vulnerable consumers. c) Pressure Selling – a commonly used tactic by some agents. “Foreign nationals ready to pay high price, if you don’t make a decision soon the property slips off your hand”. d) Untrained Real Estate Agents – Approval for License is obtained, but lacks expertise in carrying out the operations. e) Poor Work Ethics – Misleading clients who have least knowledge on how the Real Estate Industry works.
Why the Need for Consumer Protection • When consumers are deprived of quality goods and services, they have a right to voice their concerns. • When businesses tend to refuse consumer redress where required, there needs to be laws to protect them. • Consumer protection laws have been put in place to safeguard consumers from unfair trade practices and unethical treatment of some traders.
Consumer Protection Laws in Fiji Consumer interests are well safeguarded under the: • FCCC Act 2010. • Sales of Goods Act • Consumer Credit Act (currently under review) • Consumer Council of Fiji Act 1978
FCCC Act 2010 Real Estate Agents should not engage in the following conducts: • Misleading and deceptive conduct; • Unconscionable - which results from unequal bargaining power; • Falsely represent that properties have a particular standard, quality, grade or composition it does not have; • Misleading advertisements; and • Harassment and coercion of consumers. Any Real Estate Agent found to have engaged in such conducts will be liable for legal action.
Way Forward • To address the major concerns highlighted’ the FCCC aspires to: • Strengthen protections for consumers; all Fijians have the right to fair and honest dealings with financial service entities. This provides consumer confidence of the system. • Enhancing Accountability; work hand in hand with the regulating bodies to ensure that where entities and individuals within them fail to meet their obligations they will be held accountable. • Ensuring strong and effective Financial system Regulators; to develop consumer confidence in the Financial systems imposed, regulatory frameworks must be enforced by an effective regulator which the FCCC will be glad to assist in any way possible for the favorable development of the financial system. • Providing Financial Awareness; reaching out to all Fijian consumers through raising awareness on Financial vigilance and education. To also provide appropriate mechanisms to help existing and future consumers develop the knowledge skills and confidence to understand risks.
FCCC Initiatives q. Regulatory reforms – making available the rules for proactive regulation, e. g. SRG, Pricing methodology (e-pricing system), etc. q. Voluntary Compliance – to work on market participants. q. Enforceable Undertaking – to remedy market failures. q. Removing impediments of Restrictive and Unfair Trade Practices in Fijian market.
Working in Partnership A Memorandum of Understanding (Mo. U) has been signed with the REALB on 31 July 2018: • Encourage timely information sharing • It will allow to improve the services of the real estate and property rental market for the general public • Enhance competition and fair practices in the real estate industry • Reduce real estate related complaints • Assure consumer protection
FCCC Contacts: Telephone: - 8921991(Suva); 8911623 (Lautoka); 89111624 (Labasa); Or visit our offices at: 42 Gorrie Street, Suva; Ram Singh Building, 46 Namoli Avenue, Lautoka; Silas Ramzan Street, Labasa.