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Consumer Commission Publishes Guidelines on Industry Ombud-Schemes

March 30, 2011

National Consumer Commission

The national consumer commission has published draft guidelines for the accreditation of ombud-schemes in the Government Gazette for public comment.

The guidelines are published in terms of the Consumer Protection Act of 2008.

Written comment is invited until 7 April 2011.

Section 82(6) of the act allows for the setting up of “alternative dispute resolution” mechanisms within the various industrial sectors.

The respective industry codes would determine how the ombud-schemes are to be constituted.

The commission will have to decide whether the proposed scheme is able to provide a suitable alternative dispute resolution service.

The guidelines indicate that the industry codes must set down the powers to be accorded to the ombud-scheme in the handling of complaints both from consumers and suppliers.

The code must also guarantee the independence of the ombud-scheme.

The guidelines also lay down how industry ombuds are to be appointed. The appointment process has to be transparent.

Detail is provided on the way complaints are to be handled.

Some of the guiding principles include:

• Visibility
• Accessibility
• Responsiveness
• Objectivity
• Charges
• Confidentiality
• Customer-focused approach
• Accountability

The handling process for complaints is also outlined. Surveys are to be conducted on a regular basis to determine complainants’ satisfaction with the process.

Schemes will also be expected to keep a record of the handling of complaints.The confidentiality of complainants is to be maintained.