Department of Trade and Industry
The trade and industry department has launched the national consumer commission in Pretoria.
Speaking at the launch, the trade and industry minister, Rob Davies, declared that the empowerment of consumers will be a catalyst to businesses to improve their product and service choice.
The commission is to open its doors on 1 April 2011. On this day, the Consumer Protection Act also comes into effect.
According to the minister, the commission will play a key role in implementing the new consumer protection legislation. It will be tasked with strengthening consumer protection.
“The act makes provision for a comprehensive and overarching consumer law of general application that will regulate the interaction between businesses and consumers in the market place and provides more protection to consumers that was provided for in previous legislation”, he said.
The minister also pointed out that the act advocated strong partnerships between government and civil society.
The non-profit sector will be encouraged to provide “face-to-face consumer protection services such as legal advice, counselling and mediation”.
The act also provides for:
• Accreditation of consumer protection groups
• Consumer advice
• Alternative dispute resolution-mediation and conciliation
The national consumer commissioner, Mamodupi Mohlala, added that the act will, for the first time, put in place a legislative framework that “protects consumer rights in an uncompromising manner in the South African landscape”.
The legislation flowed from a survey sponsored by the department in 2004 that revealed wide-ranging ignorance on the part of South African consumers regarding their rights.
Only 21% of consumers surveyed were aware of their consumer rights and what systems were in place to deal with complaints.
Some of the abuses identified by the survey included:
• Misleading and bait advertising
• Non-honouring of guarantees
• Misuse of information
• Unfair contract terms
• Inferior product quality