ASATA column: Consumer Protection


As I write this, I’m sitting on the banks of the Crocodile River in the north-east of South Africa, hoping to catch some peace and quiet, but the noise of the bushveld is perfectly deafening!  Something all South Africans should do at least once in their lifetime is take foreigners on a road trip to the Kruger National Park. The delight of seeing game in its own habitat, the smell of the bush in the morning, the taste of the braai (barbeque) in the evenings, and, most of all, the warm and friendly South Africans you meet on your way, is enough to reignite the passion of being South African.

Travelling from New Zealand to South Africa is a long haul at the best of times and it wasn’t made any easier recently, by the delays caused by the Chilean Ash Cloud. Who would have thought that a volcano erupting in Chile would affect air traffic to South Africa? Interestingly, I found the approach by these travellers to be very informed and reasonable – perhaps because they have lived in a country that has had consumer protection laws for some time. Their understanding of their rights as passengers was very clear, but so was their understanding as to the extent of the obligations of the supplier. I was amazed by how reasonable they were in making a claim against the airline.

Since the South African Consumer Protection Act was introduced, it’s been interesting to see the type of query calls that are being brought to our attention. It is good to see that no longer are we a complacent society – issues are being dealt with and bad service rejected. Unfortunately, there will always be opportunistic claims that must be dealt with, but the law is very clear and we are guided accordingly. It was encouraging, though, to note a discussion by informed consumers, who had a mature approach to the problem at hand, and it gave me hope that our new consumer protection laws in South Africa, will pave a similar path.

Robyn Christie


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