Know your rights: Celebrating World Consumer Rights Day
The Western Cape Office of the Consumer Protector will be joining consumer protection agencies across the world to celebrate World Consumer Rights Day on 15 March. The international theme for this year recognises consumer problems in the medical field in particular the use of antibiotics. The international theme has been billed as “Antibiotics off the Menu” in recognition of the numerous problems related to the overuse of antibiotics.
Whilst the OCP acknowledges the international theme, problems closer to home takes precedence over those that affect consumers internationally. At home numerous complaints have been received about hire purchase contracts, in particular, furniture contracts which start off as a few thousand rands but soon balloon into several thousand rands leaving consumers frustrated and consumer interest groups perplexed.
The problem of additional and often unnecessary charges on hire purchase contracts will resonate with the majority of consumers especially the previously disadvantaged and debt ridden consumers. The campaign will focus on those consumers who are primarily at risk of certain illicit practices within the credit granting sphere and who face challenges in understanding the legal jargon that often characterise such business transactions. The OCP has therefore billed its theme for this year as “Hire Purchase contracts: Be aware of the costs”.
Consumer Education workshops
The OCP has selected the Eden District and Karoo as the focus of these information session campaigns since engagements with consumers in these areas has shown a need for a focussed campaign to alert consumers of their rights and obligations. Workshops will therefore be held in George, Dysseldorp, Oudtshroon, Mossel Bay, Laingsburg town and farms around the Laingsburg area. To ensure the effectiveness of the campaign and necessary support, the OCP will be joined by the National Credit Regulator (NCR) to educate consumers about their rights and obligations with regard to hire purchases.
All our educational programmes and advertising messages will focus on Sections 29, 79, 80, 8, 92, 100 and 101 of the National Credit Act which deal with consumer rights with regard to hire purchase transactions. A Complaints desk will also be established onsite and manned by both OCP and NCR staff and complaints will be attended to on site.
The issue of the affordability test will be extensively dealt with as this is paramount in hire purchase agreements.
Workshops during this period will also focus on general consumer rights as enshrined in the Consumer Protection Act.
Keeping consumers informed
“Some of the additional products sold to consumers as part of hire purchase agreements are not properly explained resulting in consumers buying insurance products that they don’t need” says Mr. Ashley Searle head of the OCP in the Province. “Our primary objective remains informing consumers about their right to information, and fairness during transactions.”
“Recently the OCP has seen a number of incidents where the alleged behaviour of some businesses with regard to hire purchases and illegal repossessions appears to be unsatisfactory. This is a demonstration of the severity of this problem in the country. This problem is not unique to Western Cape. It’s a national phenomenon,” says Mr Searle.
“Consumers often feel short-changed by their service providers, either because of unfair contract terms and conditions or because of legal jargon used in consumer contracts. However, their signatures hold them to these contracts and service providers can by law repossess these goods through a legally defined process.”
In celebration of World Consumer Rights Day, the OCP would like to remind consumer of their rights in terms of the Consumer Protection Act. Consumers should also note that the CPA and NCA complement each other when it comes to consumer rights.
Your consumer rights
1. Right to equality in the consumer market
2. Right to privacy
3. Right to choose
4. Right to disclosure of information
5. Right to fair and responsible marketing
6. Right to fair and honest dealing
7. Right to fair, just and reasonable terms and conditions
8. Right to fair value, good quality and safety
9. Right to accountability from suppliers.
Interested in a workshop?
Organisations, schools, colleges, businesses and communities that are interested in information sessions, workshops, exhibitions and interviews on the Consumer Protection Act can contact the Office of the Consumer Protector and speak to Phenias Ncube.
Office of the Consumer Protector
Tel: 021 483 9282
Fax: 021 483 9474
Post/Walk in: Ground Floor, Waldorf Building, 80 St George’s Mall, Cape Town