By Adv. Neville Melville

National Consumer Commissioner Ms Mamodupi Mohlala came out with guns blazing at the
Consumer Goods Council of South Africa’s annual conference held at Sandton Sun 6-7 October 2011.
She reiterated her intent to focus on the retail industry during her first financial year as it was this
sector that most impacted upon the vulnerable consumers identified by the Consumer Protection
Act (CPA).

Since opening its doors on 1 April 2011, the National Consumer Commission (NCC) has received on
average 8000 telephone calls per month and 11 609 written complaints or enquiries. Although the
statistics fluctuate from month to month, the retail and motor industries vie for the title of worst
offender. Currently 27% of the complaints received relate to the motor industry and 24 % to the
retail industry. Hot on their heels comes the telecommunications industry at 20 %. Other contenders
are Property and Timeshare (10%), government and municipalities (8%) and Tourism (4%).

The chief finding of the NCC so far is a lack of understanding of the requirement quality under the
CPA. Of greater concern is the discerned trend of passive resistance in certain quarters, with certain
entities resisting the process “to protect the bottom line”.

Ms Mohlala has no intention of taking opposition lying down. Already she has unleashed inspectors
on the major shopping centres in Gauteng to monitor compliance. The initial findings have not been
encouraging: there are very high levels of failure to comply with the CPA even by retail chains.

These suppliers may have a rude awakening in store for them. Ms Mohlala threatened to flex her
statutory muscle by seizing offending goods and prevailing upon the provincial authorities to arrest
offenders. She has also warned that she intends to show zero tolerance.

Targeted areas are:

Failure to disclose prices or charging more at the till.
Labelling, particularly country of origin and understandable directions on the packaging
of pharmaceuticals
Keeping proper sales records. This expectation is also extended to consumers who
are expected to retain their sales slips
Returns and exchange policy during the implied (automatic0 6 months warrantee period.
Abuse of vulnerable groups through lay byes and dumping past sell-by-date and grey market
goods in rural markets.

Retailers against whom complaints were received were encouraged to participate and embrace the
conciliation process being offered by the NCC. Bad news for those holding competitions was Ms
Mohlala’s insistence that the regulations requiring that the handling of the competition be overseen
by an independent auditor, attorney or advocate will be strictly enforced.

Ms Mohlala’s resolve to stamp her authority in the consumer market is encouraging given the
pivotal role and the commission have in ensuring the success of the CPA.

By Adv. Neville Melville, author of the best-selling The Consumer Protection Act made easy and co-
author of Know Your Consumer Rights and Ken Jou Verbruikersregte.