Consumers confused, shocked with new bus fares

05/08/2009 11:30

The Consumer Council of Fiji is deeply concerned that many consumers have not been fully informed about the new bus fare structure that came into force today (05/08/08).

The Council was flooded with phone calls, emails and visits from disgruntled consumers expressing their surprise, confusion and shock about the staggering fare increases.

The Council has found that the Land Transport Authority (LTA) did not fully inform and educate bus users prior to the new fare implementation. This led to bus companies having field day by charging indiscriminate fares they wanted.

Consumers are now more confused especially with the fare ‘stage’ system as they do not have information as on which ‘stage’ they are travelling on and what new fares have been applied by the bus companies.

There is also absolutely no information on what bus companies can charge on inter-stage travel. This leaves a huge loophole where drivers can charge whatever they can.

This morning the Council received complaints that several bus companies applied new stage 2 fares on old stage 2 destination. What it means is that consumers previously paying 70c to travel to old stage 2 today were charged $1.40 which is new stage 2 fares after merging old stage 3 and stage 4. New stage 1 is a merger of old stage 1 and old stage 2 without any change to the bus fare which remained 70c.  

The Council holds LTA accountable for rushing into implementing the new stage fares without providing information to consumers. The regulator did not provide the new fare structure to consumers so that the consumers would have known the correct fare they had to pay. This led to a lot of confusion and anger amongst consumers.

This double standard practiced by LTA is a concern to the Council. While they have been advocating that the bus companies must issue tickets to consumers but today tickets were not issued by the bus companies. Consumers have voiced their concern through the Council that whenever fare decrease is announced the bus and taxi operators are given time to prepare but in this case LTA failed to give time to bus companies and consumers to understand the new fare structure. LTA is responsible for this mess which caused consumers to part with their hard earned money through wrong fares charged by the bus companies.

The council feels that as of today (05/08/09), bus companies have unfairly made a lot of money at the expense of vulnerable consumers. The onus is on LTA to monitor the situation so that consumers are not being unjustly charged.

Furthermore, the stage system needs to be explained to consumers in a form that is familiar to them such as destination points on which they travel daily. For example, Makoi to Nabua. The stages need to be pegged to something more identifiable to commuters, rather than just a riddle of numbers.