Cape Consumer Court for complaining customers coming!

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Interesting is the news that the Western Cape province is to introduce a Consumer Affairs Tribunal next month, given the existence of the National Consumer Commission which deals with consumer complaints relating to the Consumer Protection Act nationally.  The reason for this may be that the National Consumer Commission appears to be understaffed.

The Western Cape has had its own Consumer Protector for a number of years, and received 9000 consumer complaints in 2011, of which it was able to resolve two-thirds, reports the Cape Argus.  Complaints which have received ‘stalemate‘ status between supplier and customer will be the first ones to be heard by the Consumer Affairs Tribunal, which will run like a court.  Outcomes of cases heard by the Consumer Affairs Tribunal will be the replacement of products or the payment of refunds/compensation to consumers.  A similar consumer court has already been introduced in the Gauteng province. The largest number of consumer complaints relate to the motor industry, ‘serial offender’ cellphone companies, and small food retailers, says the National Consumer Forum.  A bath re-glazing company will be one of the first local companies brought to the Cape consumer court.

The Western Cape Consumer Affairs Tribunal will be chaired by Advocate Robert Vincent, with Advocate Mandla Mdludlu, Herman Wessels, Jacki Lange, Theo Burrows, and Selby Tindleni as further members of the Consumer Tribunal, reports Bolander. Complaining consumers will be represented by an attorney of the Office of the Consumer Protector, while companies can appoint their own lawyers.

The shortage of funding for the National Consumer Commission may result in a four month closure of its call centre, writes Business Report, given the vast shortage of staff.  Of the 28000 complaints it receives per month, its five call centre operators can only deal with 8000.  The National Consumer Commissioner Mamodupi Mohlala is asking for a budget of R 134 million, saying that without the funding ‘we are rendered toothless and there will be serious consequences’.  At any moment 70 calls are on hold at the National Consumer Commission call centre.  Fifteen cases have been brought before the National Consumer Tribunal since April last year, when the Consumer Protection Act came into being.  Investigations of the country’s four largest medical aid schemes, cellphone operators (Cell C, Vodacom, MTN and Telkom), pharmaceutical companies, Checkers/Shoprite, JD Group, and the Lewis Group are being undertaken by the National Consumer Commission.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio, www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage

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One reply

  1. Pity I did not read this earlier. I am surprised there is not more support for this court.

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