It is not normal for a society to be this unequal, hence we cannot adopt a classical approach to our challenges, writes Ralph Mathekga.
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In his opinion piece of March 13, 2018, published on News24,
titled "Institutions showing sign of death – Part 1: The National Consumer
Commission", Mpumelelo Mkhabela pens a misguided narrative of the mandate
of the NCC, and provides a cunning exaggeration of circumstances surrounding
Although we understand that this is his opinion, and that he
is entitled to it, we deemed it important to provide Mkhabela with
rectification so that the public can know the facts and so that they can decide
The NCC is required by law to perform certain mandatory
duties which are: 1) promote a fair, accessible and sustainable marketplace for
consumer products and services, and 2) establish national norms and standards
relating to consumer protection. In respect of the latter duty, the NCC is
required to provide for improved standards of consumer information, prohibit
certain unfair marketing and business practices, promote responsible consumer
behaviour, and lastly promote a consistent legislative and enforcement
framework relating to consumer transactions and agreements.
South Africa’s consumer protection framework is such that it
comprises of the NCC as the overall regulator of consumer-business interaction,
nine provincial consumer affairs offices who are responsible for resolving
consumer disputes in communities, and currently, two accredited ombuds
institutions who provide mediation services respectively to the consumer goods
and services industry, and the motor industry.
The CPA orders that the NCC facilitate the resolution of
complaints in provinces, but that it not get involved in the actual dispute
resolution process, except for if it conducts an investigation and arising from
that take a matter to a court or the National Consumer Tribunal.
Investigations are a critical part of the NCC’s work. They
require time, resources, integrity, and need to meet certain legal requirements
to ensure that findings and recommendations are able to stand, should a case
land up in court for prosecution.
The NCC exercises strict rules when it comes to its
investigations. This has also been applied to the Ford Kuga investigation. Upon
completion of the Ford Kuga investigation the NCC will be guided on how to
proceed further, after considering the recommendations contained in its
Mkhabela nevertheless suggests that the NCC should by-pass
its rules to take drastic action that will potentially open it up to a lawsuit.
He forgets that if the NCC is found wanting for having acted inappropriately,
that the taxpayer would have to foot the bill for the lawsuit.
It should be known by now that where it was confirmed that
consumer rights have been violated, the NCC has prosecuted business. Proof to
that end is contained in our annual reports, and these are readily available on
our website. I invite Mkhabela to take some time and actually read them.
Mkhabela contends that the Minister of Health and the
National Institute for Communicable Diseases have become everything:
regulators, inspectors and consumer rights champions. He desolately overlooks
the fact that the listeriosis outbreak is primarily a health matter, and that
the NCC is a member of the multi-stakeholder task team that was tasked to trace
the source of the deadly ST6 strain of listeriosis.
It must be noted that each of the regulators in the task
team have a specific role to play, and that these roles are strictly informed
by prescripts of law. When the Minister of Health informed the task team about
the confirmed findings of the NICD, the NCC immediately ordered the recall of
all affected products from the domestic and export markets.
The NCC is currently monitoring the recall together with
other task team members that have a role to play in this regard.
evidently didn’t know is that consumer protection is an integral part of a
modern, efficient, effective and just market place. The phenomenon is part of
the Department of Trade and Industry’s overall strategy to improve the
competitiveness of business in South Africa. He must note that vociferous
consumers drive competitiveness, and that competitiveness brings down prices.
Internationally, several jurisdictions have consumer
protection as a function of their Departments of Trade, Commerce or Industry.
One of the key objectives of any country is to grow its economy. Consumers are
important drivers of an economy. Happy and satisfied consumers further
stimulate an economy and add to its growth.
State institutions should never shy away from criticism,
especially if it has worthy suggestions for progression. A response to such
criticism should unequivocally be to the benefit of the people we serve.
This is the broadminded view held by the National Consumer
Commission, a state institution established by an Act of Parliament known as
the Consumer Protection Act (CPA), Act 68 of 2008, and who in terms of this Act
is mandated to promote compliance with the CPA through advocacy and
enforcement, in order to ensure fair business practices, and to uphold the
social and economic welfare of consumers in the country.
- Trevor Hattingh is the spokesperson for the National Consumer Commission.
Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.
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