Billing issues top complaints to services ombud
Durban - Consumer Goods and Services Ombudsman Magauta Mphahlele’s office experienced a surge in consumer complaints which were mostly resolved in favour of consumers over the past financial year.
This was according to the ombudsman’s annual report for 2019/20 that was released this week.
Mphahlele, whose office experienced a 15.5% increase in the number of complaints received compared to the previous period, said 65% of complaints had been resolved in favour of consumers.
“This is due to the degree of co-operation received from the relevant participants and does not reflect any bias in favour of consumers,” Mphahlele said.
She said consumer complaints were on the rise as consumers were becoming more aware of her office which aimed to promote good business conduct and adherence to the Consumer Goods and Services Code which was in line with the Consumer Protection Act (CPA).
Of the 9529 cases opened, the office closed 8606 complaints. Ninety-four percent of complaints related to goods, services and agreements, with complaints about defective or damaged goods at 39%, followed closely by service-related issues at 33% and agreements at 22%.
“We know in terms of the CPA the consumer has an automatic 6-month warranty and a lot of consumers are utilising the right to return damaged and defective products to receive a refund, a repair or a replacement of their choice,” she said.
She said services and contract-related complaints included issues around services not being delivered on time and not provided according to contract.
Mphalele said sectors that recorded the most complaints were satellite and telecommunications, 26%; appliance manufacturers and retailers, 24%; furniture, 18%; clothing retail, 10%, fitness, 6%; timeshare, 5%; and online discounters, 4%.
She said many of the complaints regarding the satellite and telecommunication sector were about cellphones and billing issues as well as penalties charged for cancellation of contracts.
“In the manufacturing and retail sector we had a lot of complaints about goods - fridges, stoves and televisions - being defective. We also had a lot of complaints about furniture being defective within six months,” she said.
However, Maphele said consumers continued to misunderstand that the CPA did not allow for refunds when they experienced buyer’s remorse.
“Consumers continue to misunderstand that although the act allows returns and refunds, that does not apply if the consumer has decided to change his mind and in that case the policy of retailer will apply and not the CPA,” she said.
She said many complaints about gyms and fitness centres related to cancellation fees not being reasonable in terms of the act.