Law protects consumers

2010-07-31 10:19

Help is at hand for consumers who get shoddy service.

The government has identified shortcomings in the protection of consumer rights. This has led to the introduction of the Consumer Protection Act.

Janusz Luterek, a lawyer at Hahn and Hahn, says the law is the perfect answer to protecting consumers while simultaneously ­ensuring sound relationships between service providers and consumers.

Some of the interesting developments of the act ­include ­permitting goods to be returned to the supplier six months after purchase without having to pay any penalties.

The supplier is then obliged to repair or replace the defective goods or refund the consumer.

But the real power of protection lies with the consumers.

There are dedicated organisations out there that have made it their mandate to protect consumer rights.

Below is a list of some of the organisations that consumers should contact for help.

A complaint about a bank, credit grantor or debt collector giving you sleepless nights can be referred to:

  • The National Credit Regulator (NCR). The organisation can be reached on 086 062 762 7.

It is responsible for regulating the credit industry.

  • The Ombudsman for Banking Services can be contacted on 011 838 0035/8/9.

The ombudsman investigates disputes with banks over ­products offered, and provides an ­independent, free, informal and confidential dispute resolution service.

  • Consumer advice and protection from direct marketers and sellers, and junk mail is available from the Direct Marketing Association and the Direct ­Selling Association. Their offices can be reached on 086 136 2362 and 011 726 5300 respectively.

  • The Estate Agency Affairs Board assists with complaints relating to unfair service offered by registered agents. The board can be contacted on 011 731 5600 .

The body was established by the government to protect ­consumer interests when buying and selling property.

Claims in respect of losses can be submitted to the board’s fidelity fund and this, for example, happens when the estate agent has stolen or mismanaged funds.

  • Complaints about short-term insurance can be referred to the Ombudsman for Short-term ­Insurance. The ombudsman’s office can be contacted on 011 726 8900.

However, complaints should first be referred to the ­insurance company.

  • The Long-term Insurance Ombudsman investigates complaints from the public against life- and long-term insurers that participate in the Ombudsman’s Scheme. The office can be reached on 021 657 5000.

Once again, complainants are advised to first seek resolution through their insurer.

  • The Pension Funds Adjudicator handles complaints regarding private sector pension funds, including provident funds and retirement annuities.

The office can be reached on 087 942 2700.

  • The Government Employees Pension Fund investigates all pension-fund issues for the public sector. The office can be contacted on 012 543 5824.

  • The Financial Services Board oversees the non-banking ­financial services industry in the public interest. Their area of focus includes ­investment schemes and financial advisers and brokers. For more information call 012 428 8000.

  • The Health Professions Council of SA is a statutory body that sets and maintains standards for healthcare in the country.

Every health professional must be registered with the council, which has the power to institute a disciplinary inquiry into any complaint relating to services provided by the health sector. The council’s office can be reached on 012 338 9300.

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