Complaints to Consumer Ombud up by 60%

Join the club if you are having trouble with your cellphone provider‚ gym or furniture.

Complaints at the Consumer Goods and Services Ombud (CGSO) have increased by 60% in the past financial year. This is according to their annual report released in Centurion on Tuesday.

The CGSO received 5‚595 cases in the 2016/17 financial year which ended in February compared to the 3‚495 cases received in 2015/16.

Most complainants had trouble with the satellite and telecommunications sector (1‚142 cases)‚ clothing retail (372 cases)‚ fitness (244 cases)‚ security and training (156 cases).

The majority of the complaints in the satellite and telecommunications sector were about broken screens and contract disputes. Another common dispute was gym contracts.

Acting ombudsman Magauta Mphahlele said: “Consumers don’t understand the cancellation clause in the Consumer Protection Act. They think if they have given the supplier notice‚ then they can get away with not paying a penalty.”

Mphahlele said smaller companies struggled the most in dealing with consumers’ complaints‚ because they did not have the extra personnel.

“It takes money and resources to put somebody there … Bigger entities are aware that they need to maintain a reputation. And with social media‚ and so on‚ I think entities are pulling up their socks.”

Of the 5‚595 cases opened‚ 4‚650 cases fell within the CGSO’s jurisdiction and adjudicated. Of the 4‚650 cases‚ 48% were fully upheld and 12% were partially upheld. Fully upheld means consumers received the full remedy they requested.

“While we consider the 60% positive outcome as good for the consumer‚ we are still concerned that in 17.8% of cases the complaint could not be resolved‚ because of lack of co-operation from the supplier.

The CGSO said it identified a trend of “forum shopping” where complainants lodged complaints with different bodies‚ but warned against approaching the various bodies simultaneously.

“Not only is this a waste of scarce resources‚ but it also has the potential of undermining the integrity of the whole system by pitting one mechanism against another with the associated potential for contradictory rulings.”

The CGSO said in its annual report it was “no more than a mediator at present”.

“Mediation is a consensual process.”

The CGSO was started in 2013 and became effective on April 29 2015 in terms of the Consumer Protection Act. This independent body is funded by businesses who are CGSO members. There are currently 650 companies who are members.

by Nico Gous -TimesLIVE



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