THE Cape Chamber of Commerce has warned its members that that National Consumer Protection Act is in operation and that many businesses will soon have to answer to the National Consumer Commission.
Mr Michael Bagraim, President of the Chamber, said he understood that complaints had been pouring in since April 1 this year and clear patterns were beginning to emerge.
Most of the complaints concerned the motor industry with complaints about cell phones not far behind.
“This should not be a surprise because they are both big industries. In the case of the motor industry, however, there are many players from new and used car dealers to repair shops and even tow trucks operators. Many of these players are small businesses and they may not have the resources to deal with some of the complaints or to make refunds.”
He pointed out that in terms of the Act, consumers could return products within six months of purchase. “Six months is a long time in the life of an engine with lots of moving parts and some problems are inevitable. In many cases we will have clarity only when aspects of the legislation have been tested in the courts, but judgments could unleash a flood of claims as precedents are set. How will small businesses cope?”
He advised businesses to become familiar with the CPA and to bear its provisions in mind when making decisions. “It will be just as important to keep on the right side of the CPA as it is for businesses to keep on the right side of our complex labour legislation.”
Mr Bagraim advised businesses to make only decisions which they could defend. “If, for instance, you need to use a sub-contractor make sure that you get three quotes and make sure you have very good reasons if you choose one of the more expensive ones.”
In a recent case a hired car had been damaged and the car hire company had accepted the most expensive quote for the repair. “Understandably this decision angered the customer and the car hire company could yet find that it will have to refund the difference between the highest and lowest quotes.”
“The best defense against future claims is good, ethical business practice. These are principles that the Chamber had always advocated but it has become more important now than ever before,” Mr Bagraim said. “In the old days we used to say ‘let the buyer beware. Now it is a case of ‘let the seller beware.’”