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FIJI: Three firms share 'worst company'award

FIJI: Three firms share 'worst company'award


SUVA (PANG/Pacific Media Watch): British American Tobacco (BAT), Courts Fiji Ltd and the Fiji Sugar Corporation have won the Draunisalato Award for being the three worst companies operating in the Fiji islands in 2003.

Twelve companies were nominated by the public for the inaugural award that was organised by the Pacific Network on Globalisation (PANG) and the Ecumenical Centre for Research, Education and Advocacy (ECREA).

BAT won the award for selling over 417.2 million cigarettes in Fiji in 2002, a deadly product with proven health risks and addiction. The company was further slated for the burden they create for Fiji's health services, their virtual monopoly of the market, advertising by stealth, huge economic and social costs, as well as lack of transparency about its research and statistics on the effects of tobacco smoking.

Courts Fiji Ltd was cited for misleading advertising, pretending to compete with Burns Philps in 2003 while preparing to merge, not being sufficiently up-front to customers about interest rates charges and terms and conditions of hire purchases, instances of double-dipping customers through fixed interest rates and repossessions, and instances of highly inflated prices which are then substantially reduced as sales, often by half or by one third.

Courts was also the most complained about company to the Consumer Council of Fiji in 2003, and among the top in the list of companies that takes its customers to the Small Claims Tribunal.

The Fiji Sugar Corporation was chosen for the long-term neglect and pollution of the Qawa river in Labasa from the operations of their sugar mill there. The Labasa mill has contributed to the death and loss of marine life, the foul stench of the river, the loss of recreational activities and water sports, and loss of subsistence livelihoods and economic activity from the river.

"The award is not about naming and shaming companies that have negative impacts on our communities. We looked at the positive impacts of companies as well, and have also made recommendations on how these companies can improve, or how authorities can respond to the negative impacts of these operations," said PANG coordinator Stanley Simpson.

"Indeed, there were some companies that were not nominated by the public, but who may be considered worse than the companies that won this year. However, the process of this award is that we rely on nominations from the public, in order to make our judgement, and we stand by that.

"This is not an opinion poll, but a deliberate and well-thought out assessment of the companies that were nominated," Simpson said.

"The award provides an opportunity for consumers to exercise their rights and have a say on the companies they deal with.

The full texts of the judgements on the companies are available on the ECREA website and soon on the PANG website



PACIFIC MEDIA WATCH is an independent, non-profit, non-government organisation comprising journalists, lawyers, editors and other media workers, dedicated to examining issues of ethics, accountability, censorship, media freedom and media ownership in the Pacific region. Launched in October 1996, it has links with the Journalism Program at the University of the South Pacific, Bushfire Media based in Sydney, Journalism Studies at the University of PNG (UPNG), the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism (ACIJ), Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand, and Community Communications Online (c2o).

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