A two-day Consumer Protection Conference that ended in Sandton yesterday has resolved to set up a working committee that will consolidate resolutions and recommendations of the conference. This was announced by the National Consumer Tribunal (NCT) Executive Chairperson, Ms Diane Terblanche in her closing statement at the end of the Conference.
A working committee will consist of consumer protection role players who participated in a two-day Consumer Protection Conference and to consolidate resolutions and recommendations of the conference. Ms Terblanche said that the committee will seek to address challenges that inhibit cohesiveness and comprehensive consumer protection in the market place.
"There is a need for meaningful redress mechanisms to be integrated at all levels of the consumer protection value chain so that we can employ a comprehensive consumer protection model," added Terblanche.
"In achieving this we should engage academia to develop appropriate training modules for law students around consumer protection. Stakeholders can also approach professional bodies for on-going development of professionals that exercise oversight on consumer protection," stated Terblanche.
Some the points raised by the conference delegates include the following;
" There is a need to collect and collate complaints statistics from various stakeholders in order to better understand the state of consumer protection in the country and innovate adequate protection mechanisms.
" Consumer complaint statistics are not reflective of the number of economically active consumers in the country that are experiencing challenges in the marketplace, particularly vulnerable groups, such as state grant recipients, who continue to experience problems such as unauthorised deductions. This informs that many consumers are either not aware of their rights or do not know where to lodge complaints.
" There is no clear protocol for referral of complaints/cases in the dispute resolution value chain. This flows from consumers to suppliers of services and products to Ombud Schemes, Provincial Consumer Affairs Offices and Courts, Regulators, Tribunal and Civil Courts.
" There is a need to assess the effectiveness of in-house complaints handling mechanisms used by suppliers of goods and services, such as call centres.
" There is a need to establish a national forum, representative of all consumer protection role players for the purposes of coordination, and to combine the limited resources to optimise consumer protection.
" There is a need for effective, consistent, harmonised redress and enforcement mechanisms, consumer protection policy among the stakeholders. This is informed by the fact that, there are numerous policies that can create duplication and overlaps ultimately there will be confusion for the consumers of how to go about enforcing their rights.
" Consumer protection bodies need to continuously review and adapt the mechanisms and methods by which they carry out their consumer protection activities.
The theme of the conference was "Towards cohesive and comprehensive consumer protection in the market."
Member of the media, Ombud schemes, judiciary, academia, provincial consumer affairs offices, regulators, organised labour, civil society, and representatives from various industries, among others attended the conference.
Jointly issued by the Department of Trade and Industry, the National Consumer Tribunal, National Consumer Commission, and the National Credit Regulator
Sidwell Medupe-Departmental Spokesperson
Tel: (012) 394 1650
Mobile: 079 492 1774
Issued by: The Department of Trade and Industry
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Source: The Department of Trade and Industry Republic of South Africa