SA consumers stand up for their rights

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Consumer Goods and Services Ombud (CGSO) has seen a 60% increase in the number of cases reported to it.

“For the reporting period, the CGSO received 5 595 cases, compared to 3 495 cases in the previous year,” Acting Ombudsman of the CGSO, Magauta Mphahlele, said at a media briefing in Pretoria on Tuesday.

The CGSO released its annual report for the period ending February 2017.

Mphahlele said the top five business sectors that attracted the most complaints were telecommunications, furniture retail, clothing retail, wholesalers and fitness.

The top five complaints that emanated from these sectors related to cell phones (26%), services (23%), electrical appliances (10%), other (9%) and furniture (8%).

Mphahlele said the CGSO meets regularly with suppliers to assist them to improve their complaints handling processes and compliance with the Consumer Protection Act and the code.

With regards to the telecommunication sector complaints, Mphahlele said some consumers don’t understand the cancellation clause in the consumer protection Act. Some consumers think that if they give the supplier notice, they can get away with not paying a penalty.

“The Act is clear that if you are cancelling before the expiry of the term agreement, the supplier is still entitled to charge you penalties.

“There are issues around billing, where consumers have used a lot of data and the bill is very high and they don’t understand why the bill is high,” she said.

Gyms also feature significantly in the complaints with regards to the issue of cancellation. A total of 45% of the cases were referred to the CGSO by the National Consumer Commission.

“We are pleased to report that during the reporting period, the number of participants increased from 189 to 650, which is a 244% increase. The participants include most of the large retailers and wholesalers,” Mphahlele said.

The increase has also been attributed to consumer awareness about the existence of the CGSO, as well as an increase in the number of suppliers who are now subscribing to the consumer code and informing consumers about their right to approach the CGSO should the supplier not resolve their complaints internally.

During the same period, the office closed 5 974 cases, compared to 2 192 in the previous year. This is an increase of 173%. Mphahlele said it was the result of a concerted effort to narrow down the backlog of cases that were received mainly from the National Consumer Commission.

Of the 5 595 cases opened, 4 650 were within the CGSO jurisdiction and were adjudicated.

In these cases, 60% were resolved fully or partially in favour of the consumer with 48% being fully upheld and 12% being partially upheld.

Mphahlele explained that “fully upheld” means the consumer received part of the remedy requested and “partial” means the consumer received part of the remedy requested or positive assistance that led to the consumer and the supplier agreeing to resolve an administrative issue.

“While we consider the 60% positive outcome as good for the consumer, we are still concerned that in 17.8% of the cases, the complaint could not be resolved because of lack of co-operation from the supplier,” Mphahlele said. – 


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