Nearly 18 months ago, the Consumer Protection Act was introduced in South Africa, and since then we’ve been left to wonder if there was any significance to the date it was launched – April Fools’ Day!
ASATA continues to work on industry codes and CPA compliance, but the only cases being brought to our attention are from educated, affluent and aspiring attorneys – not necessarily the intended target market. However, the cases where we have been called upon to mediate have included the demand of a full refund on non-refundable tickets issued, and Section 17, which gives the consumer the benefit of a full refund in the event of hospitalisation. Fortunately, in the two cases that ASATA members brought to our attention, we were in a position to prove that the member had drawn the consumer’s attention to the terms and conditions of the supplier, ensuring that any ambiguity allowed for the reasonable interpretation.
The Act is very explicit about whom it is intended to protect – those who are not in a financial position to seek legal counsel. These types of consumers are juristic persons whose asset value or annual turnover at the time of the transaction exceeds the threshold value of two million rand per year. In addition, business travellers whose tickets have been paid by their company, would also fall outside of this commission’s ambit, considering that the company has the financial capability to challenge the dispute in a court of law.
It is not surprising that the National Consumer Commission is challenged by an overwhelming number of cases and sadly there are other issues affecting the body that we have read about in the media. But, for the main part, ASATA has urged our members to do their best to resolve the query within their own business, and failing that, to refer it to ASATA for mediation.
Let’s leave the commission to deal with those cases that are worthy of their time and attention, and on the consumer side, make sure you are dealing with an ASATA member who has drawn your attention to the detail which could affect you in the event of a dispute.