The Chair of the Fiji Commerce Commission, Ms Joann Young,

Members of the Fiji Commerce Commission Board,

CEO and Staff of the Fiji Commerce Commission,

Ladies and Gentlemen

Bula Vinaka and very good morning to you all.

I am delighted to be here today to open this very important Workshop, which is specifically addressing the topic of “White Goods”. The topic today is a cross-cutting one that concerns each and every one of us – as consumers and businesses.

Today’s topic has a number of different inter-related issues for the Government and the policy makers to consider. These include issues, such as:

• Consumer Preference – how do they make the choices, what relevant policies changes are required to ensure that the consumers are protected;
• Hire purchase – the roles and responsibilities of sellers – in the disclosure of accurate and full information;
• Standards – are the goods fit for purpose, energy efficient and environmentally sound; and
• Trade facilitation – how are all the agencies working together to ensure that the goods are efficiently cleared from the border to retail outlets to minimize any additional cost being passed on to the consumers.

These are all pertinent issues and each could be discussed on their own stakeholder Workshop. Therefore, the Workshop needs to be focused and have clear and concise outcomes that can be taken further by the Fiji Commerce Commission and policy makers.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

White Goods are generally reference to heavy consumer durables, such as air conditioners, refrigerators, stoves, to name a few. These goods were general painted only in white enamel finish. These are still referred to as white goods, despite being available in varied colours now.

In the Fijian market, “white goods” are often referred to most electrical and electronic appliances, and more recently include static and mobile network and telecommunication devices and accessories.

Globally, the white goods industry is forecasted to reach an estimated value of US$324.2 billion by 2019. The high demand for white goods is driven by the increased per capita income, economic growth, better standard of living, electrification of most homes, consumer demand and an increase in household and business activities.

In Fiji, white goods, which were considered luxury items are now a necessity. For example, there is a 110 percent market penetration of mobile phones in the Fijian market, this means at least every individual in Fiji owns at least one mobile phone.

Due to the efforts of the Fijian Government to ensure electricity is provided to a large majority of Fijians, we see the increase in households owning basic amenities such as fridges, television set, microwave ovens, washing machine, to name a few.

This increased consumption is further supported by the increased competition in the market that has made it affordable and at times easier for consumers to purchase these white goods. Therefore, want was once considered a once in a lifetime purchase has become an easily available commodity.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

A major concern for the Fijian Government is the pressure that the use of these items places on the energy consumption and the manner in which the products are disposed of after its life cycle.

The Fijian Government through the National Green Growth Framework has identified measures that need to be taken into account in order to address three areas of impact, which includes Environment, Social and Economic impacts of the use of these white goods.

As a responsible Government we are keen to address issues in totality, including what we buy, consume and dispose as a nation. Fiji became the first nation to ratify the Paris Declaration on Climate Change as we want to take decisive steps to ensure sustainability for the future generation.

In this regard, the Fijian Government had started the process by putting in place necessary measures much earlier. In 2012, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport with the assistance from the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism, put in place the Minimum Energy Performance and Labelling Regulations.

These Regulations incorporated the relevant standards that identified a “Star Rating” system for household freezers and refrigerators and now work is underway to include other white goods under the standards with the aim to reduce energy consumption.

Therefore, as an importer of white goods, you need to be mindful and cognizant of the overall vision of the Fijian Government, which is to reduce energy consumption. This can be achieved by ensuring that the product that you are bringing into the country is complying with the relevant domestic standards and laws, and where these laws as not present you need to ensure that the products are complying with international standards.

Furthermore, there is a general lack of understanding by consumers about the “Star Rating” in general. Consumer awareness is critical to enable the country to move ahead in energy efficient products. Therefore, apart from the policy maker and consumer advocates the retailers of white goods also have the responsibility to ensure that their consumers are given accurate and necessary information with regards to the performance of the goods.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The issue of white goods trade is not limited to just energy efficiency, but it also includes a vast number of other issues, such as, quality of the goods, information on the use, storage, servicing, availability of spare parts or backup service, to name a few.

The Ministry is currently working on information standards that will generally outline the type of information that needs to be provided for white goods at the point of sale, for example, the purpose of product, content, price, warranty period, formats and designs. This will enable consumers to make informed decision on the product.

Furthermore, the Ministry is also undertaking the review of the Consumer Credit Act 1999 with the support of Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme. The Act has provisions on a number of credit agreements and also includes the Hire Purchase Agreement. Through this review the Ministry will balance the interests of the credit lending institutions and the consumers.

As the Workshop progresses there will be various issues that will be raised and many will require Government interventions. However, we need to also remind ourselves that as much as regulations are important, we do not want regulations to become a burden on doing business or for a consumer to have access to basic items.

It is worth nothing that as Fiji is progressing towards the ratification of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement in an effort to ensure that the laws and regulations are streamlined and regulating agencies operate at optimal efficiency.

Whilst, standards, energy labelling and environmental requirements are extremely important, it is as important that these border inspections and approvals undertaken in a coordinated manner. In fact, where possible one agency such as FRCA can perform the task of all other agencies. This principle is commonly referred to as the single window clearance.

This concept firstly, places the onus on the importers to ensure that they are providing the correct documentations and secondly, with one point of clearance the time and cost of importation will be reduced, hence the benefits will be passed on to the consumers.

As a standards setting body for all goods and services, the Ministry wants to see that the trade of white goods in the Fijian market is addressed in totality to capture regulatory, national standards, fair trade practices, consumer protection and environmental issues.

I sincerely hope that today’s workshop will set the platform for future engagement of all parties, in striving to transform the trade of white goods in Fiji for the benefit of all Fijians.

Vinaka vakalevu and Thank you.