Promoting Competition and Consumer Protection in Fiji
Above: The market in Suva, Fiji.
Fiji has a new, modernized Competition and Consumer Policy, which will support economic development by safeguarding consumers and the private sector.
The new policy was endorsed by the Fijian Cabinet in April 2020, but PSDI’s engagement and support began in 2016. That year, at the request of the attorney general, PSDI began providing support to reform Fiji’s outdated competition policies and laws. This early work comprised the development of the Fiji Competition Commission Strategic Plan 2017–2021, and a review of the Commerce Commission Law and recommendations for its reform.
Building on the relationships and credibility that work established, PSDI began working with the Fiji Competition and Consumer Commission (FCCC; formerly the Fiji Competition Commission) and the Ministry of Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Transport to develop the National Competition and Consumer Protection Policy in 2017–2018. The policy aligns closely with Fiji’s National Development Plan, and was a requirement attached to an ADB budgetary support initiative.
Ministry of Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Transport Permanent Secretary Shaheen Ali says the development and endorsement of the policy was driven by: the Government of Fiji’s vision and political will; having FCCC champion the changes; the policy being a key reform milestone for ADB budgetary support; and being able to access “the right type of expertise” from both the ministry and PSDI when needed.
“If Fiji is to achieve its vision of being the regional trade, commerce, technology, and communications hub of the South Pacific, then it needs a very robust private sector and it needs a very robust competition framework and modern legislation which incorporates international best practices.”
PSDI has since supported the FCCC and Ministry of Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Transport to draft the Competition and Consumer Protection Bill, which will replace the existing act. Consultation on the draft bill are currently underway. Mr. Ali notes one of the driving forces behind the new legislation is the private sector’s interest in greater self-compliance and regulation. Currently, the FCCC enforces regulation of some industries.
“We need to look at progressively letting the market address some of these issues and (let) the private sector play a greater role with free and open competition in all sectors,” says Mr. Ali. “We wanted the FCCC[EH1] to have a more balanced approach, to be seen as friendly to the private sector, and also to come in where consumers needed protection. We wanted less of an interventionist type of approach. We wanted markets to correct themselves and the FCCC to assist in market correctness with as minimal interventions as possible.”
Reform was managed through a technical working group that coordinated a series of meetings and workshops. Consultations were a key part of the process, with inputs gathered from the Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation, the Fiji Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Women In Business Fiji, the Real Estate Association, fuel industry representatives, utility providers (such as Energy Fiji, water authorities, telecommunications companies), and key government departments.
The policy outlines Fiji’s commitment to supporting competition and consumer protection in national markets.
It also articulates the key benefits of an effective legal framework to enforce protections. This includes increased efficiency and innovation; more efficient use of resources; and greater choice, fairer pricing, and higher quality products and services. The policy also highlights the behaviors it aims to improve in both public and private enterprises, and the reforms the government intends to address anti-competitive practices and protect consumers, including specific provisions to protect women, rural dwellers, and other potentially disadvantaged groups.
Once the new act passes through Parliament, Mr. Ali says raising awareness of it and clarifying the roles of the FCCC and the Fiji Consumer Council—a consumer advocacy organization—will be important.