Enhanced Consumer Protection
To enhance consumer protection, the National Consumer Commissioner Ebrahim Mohamed has highlighted the necessity for consumer protection bodies to support one other’s work efforts, instead of “stepping on each other’s toes.”
The three major consumer protection bodies under the Department of Trade and Industry (dti) are the National Consumer Commission (NCC), the National Consumer Tribunal (NCT) and the National Credit Regulator (NCR).
On Tuesday, at a conference Mohamed said that “Despite the obvious lack of resources amongst us, it is my view that if we pool resources we can achieve so much more, especially in these difficult economic times.”
Consumer Protection Conference
As follows, a two-day conference geared ‘Towards cohesive and comprehensive consumer protection in the market’ will be held in Johannesburg and attended by the NCC, NCT and NCR.
The NCC was borne of section 85 of the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) and is the umbrella organisation for consumer protection in South Africa. Its mandate is to promote fair business and marketing practices, and responsible consumer behaviour, Mohamed explained.
NCR CEO, Nomsa Motshegare confirmed that the major focus of the regulator would remain reckless lending, misleading advertising and supervising the implementation of regulations, such as credit life caps.
Of the 23 million credit users in South Africa, 42% have impaired credit records, which means they have fallen into arrears or skipped debt repayments, Motshegare asserted.
She also said the NCR would go on chasing unregistered creditors. Prior to the National Credit Amendment Act (NCAA) coming into force last year, creditors only had to register with the NCR if they had over 100 credit agreements, exceeding R500 000, on the books.
However, “Under the NCAA, everyone who provides credit is now required to register with the NCR,” Motshegare stated.
Motshegare also revealed that the NCR and Department of Public Service and Administration have jointly undertaken a debt relief programme to assist highly indebted government employees.
Diane Terblanche, the executive chairperson of the NCT stressed that it was essential to discuss ways of enhancing the quality and scope of consumer access to redress, at some point during the conference.
Only once consumers have exhausted all initial recourse options, such as speaking to the company in question and approaching alternative dispute resolution (ADR) agents, can the NCT address their complaints.
Motion courts have been rolled out in areas where debt counsellors filed cases, in order to address a case backlog of 8 000 debt restructuring agreements, at September 2015. Monthly case agreement numbers doubled between 2014 and 2015 affirmed Terblanche.
The NCT succeeded in clearing about 3 800 debt restructuring cases from October to December 2015. It hopes to clear 5 000 by end of February 2016. An automated case management system has been put in place, anticipated to be operational by the close of March announced Terblanche.
Whereas the commission are looking into using social media and an app to encourage consumers to voice their complaints, said NCC spokesperson Trevor Hattingh.
“The challenge with using social media is that no reference numbers will be provided to consumers when they register a complaint, but we are looking into it. We are also looking to provide an app, where people can use an improved website together with an app to lodge complaints, which would allow for the generation of reference numbers,” he revealed.