It will never quite be business as usual in South Africa, as the new National Consumer Commission (NCC) is set to change the experience of customers and business owners, introducing a range of benefits for both parties.
Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Minister Rob Davies has described the commission as the ace up the department's sleeve that will usher in a new era in consumer protection.
"We will have an additional arrow in our bow. It's a double benefit," Davies said on Friday at the formal launch of the commission.
He was responding to a question on how the Consumer Protection Act (CPA), which will be administered by the commission, will assist not only consumers but industry as well. The CPA will come into effect on 1 April 2011.
"Consumers have a right to be defended against shoddy and sub-standard goods through the act," said the minister."
The launch of the commission follows a process that began in 2004, when a survey sponsored by the DTI revealed that South African consumers had little information regarding their rights as consumers, especially those situated in poor communities.
Legislation at the time did not address the challenges of discriminatory and unfair market practices and led to the new incoming CPA, which will allow consumers redress.
The minister described the CPA as "groundbreaking", as it will also protect producers from unfair competition from illegal imports.
"I believe the legislation will be of great importance to consumers and producers, especially manufactures. It will give them an opportunity to raise their game and improve competitiveness. Fair trade is what we seek to introduce in South Africa," Davie said, adding that the poor in most cases were victims of unfair trade.
Mamodupi Mohlala, commissioner of the NCC, said when consumers lodge a complaint with them, the matter would be addressed, within a six-week turnaround period. Resolving the matter was expected to take six months.
The exception, Mohlala said, was when the matter required more scrutiniy such as having to have products tested.
The commission has also signed an agreement with the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS), which will see the bureau providing the NCC with testing facilities should there be a need.
Mohlala said the CPA will protect consumer rights in an uncompromising way, as well provide valuable services to consumers.
The commission will begin functioning on 1 April and in its first year will operate under the theme of "Upliftment of the rural consumer." In its second year, it will focus on the ICT, manufacturing and retail, as well as the medical and pharmaceutical sectors.
Standing committees (reporting periodically) are also to be established.
"We are ready to go," said Mohlala.
Acting Director General and Deputy Director General responsible for consumer and corporate regulation, Zodwa Ntuli, said the CPA also gives the commission the right to recall products. - BuaNews