The 15th of March marks the commemoration of World Consumer Rights Day. As a consumer it is important that you are educated and are aware of your rights, because being aware of your rights ensures that you are treated fairly in your transactions. It is also imperative that business owners and traders are educated about consumer rights and that they adhere to prescripts of the Consumer Protection Act; this will ensure that they conduct their business in a responsible manner; encouraging fair trade and mutual satisfaction.
Gauteng Office of Consumer Affairs employees with MEC, Nkosiphendule Kolisile at the World Consumer Rights Day celebrations in Khutsong this past weekend
The Gauteng Office of Consumer Affairs (GOCA) promotes and protects the rights of consumers in Gauteng. GOCA is tasked with prohibiting and controlling unfair business practices, this is done through mediation and negotiation of consumer complaints; this is also known as alternate dispute resolution. The whole purpose behind alternate dispute resolution is that it is quicker and cheaper because consumers do not have to go to court to settle a dispute; but rather it is settled through mediation and negotiation. Consumer Protector, Ms Reeva Welman, says that the main aim of GOCA is to ensure redress is given to the consumers of Gauteng.
Khutsong residents came in their numbers to celebrate World Consumer Rights Day
Welman also says that a low percentage of the complaints that the Consumer Affairs Office receives actually go to court. The reason behind this is that most of the complaints are settled through mediation and negotiation by consumer investigators. In an event that investigators cannot settle the complaint, they then refer it to a Consumer Protector who may then refer the matter to the Consumer Affairs Court. The Consumer Protector drafts a summons to the business and represents the consumer at the hearing.
Gauteng Consumer Protector, Reeva Welman, was the programme director at the World Consumer Rights Day celebrations
When asked how the Consumer Affairs Office decides on the validity of a complaint, Welman had this to say: “The complaint must be within our jurisdiction, this means that the business must be located within the province and the consumer must reside in the province. The consumer also must have been subjected to an unfair business practice”. In an event where the office receives a ‘cross-border complaint’ (for example if the consumer resides in another province but the business is located in Gauteng), then the complaint is referred to the National Consumer Commission (NCC), as it no longer falls within the jurisdiction of GOCA.
MEC Nkosiphendule Kolisile, poses with a resident.
Welman says that both consumers and businesses are unaware of their rights and responsibilities. “We are not only educating consumers, we will also be educating businesses as well; this will be a big focus for us in the new financial year”, said Welman. She also said that by educating and creating awareness in consumers and business owners, GOCA hopes to stimulate a conducive business environment for both businesses and consumers.
The MEC even danced with the locals
With regards to the recent ‘meat scandal’, Welman says that there were two contraventions of the Consumer Protection Act. Firstly: it contravened section 24 of the Act which states that products should be correctly labeled. Secondly, it contravenes section 41 of the act which states that suppliers must not make misleading representations about their products. Welman says that GOCA has not yet received any complaints regarding the meat scandal and that since the scandal occurred in various parts of the country, it falls within the jurisdiction of the NCC, which has already commenced an investigation into the matter.
Welman advises consumers to read their contracts before they sign it and to make sure that they understand the terms and conditions clearly. “Before you purchase something look around the shop for any notices that state the terms and conditions of the sale , especially with regards to returns, exchanges and refunds”, said Welman emphatically.
If you have ever been subjected to an unfair business practice, you can contact the Gauteng Office of Consumer Affairs through the following methods:
Telephone: 011 355 8006
Fax: 011 355 8110
You can also contact the office via the Premier’s Hotline: 0860 (Gauteng) 4288364
What is your take on the recent meat scandal? Do you think that more can be done do increase consumer rights awareness amongst consumers and business owners?
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