Seeking to quell the fears of consumers across the country, the Consumer Goods and Services Ombudsman (CGCSA) has noted there are number of alternatives for consumers seeking to take action against suppliers over poor services and defective goods.
Advocate Neville Melville, said the first and most sensible point of action for consumers would be lodging a complaint with the business or supplier first. If that was not possible, the matter could be escalated by approaching the CGCSA, who would raise the issue with the company on behalf of the consumers behalf.
“We are be able to resolve most of the complaints that we receive on a very informal basis, compared to the courts for instance,” he said.
For those matters where the suppliers were not cooperative, or the matter was not resolved, Melville said the issue could then be taken to the National Consumer Commission, which had various statutory powers to tackle the complaint. This included the right to issues subpoenas, host hearings, as well as issue a compliance notice against the supplier.
He rejected the notion that consumers, when dealing with the CGCSA, would have to fork out big sums of money to hire a lawyer, insisting that for such informal processes no form of legal assistance was required. He said his office would assist the consumer with formalising their complaint, before lodging it to the suppliers themselves.
“Also, if the supplier doesn’t have a defence and it is a small business, we would also assist them to formulate their case, and be fair to both parties,” he said.
The process would be free of charge, with charges only arising if the matter went through the court system or a private mediator.
“If the issue is not sorted out, we bring in a mediator so the two parties can sit around a table, put forward their sides of the story, and try to come up with a solution,” he said.
Melville urged consumers to keep as much information on their transactions as possible, so if an issue arose, they would have sufficient evidence to back up their claim. This included confirming verbal agreements in writing, as well as keeping records of people they have dealt with.
“The very first thing to have, is to keep the proof of purchase. It makes it a lot more difficult afterwards if you do not have that,” he insisted.
For more information on how you can run a complaint with the CGCSA, visit their website at www.cgcsa.co.za. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)