Consumer Watch: Consumer developments to keep an eye out for in 2021
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Last year was such a diabolical year that a British mockumentary, Death to 2020 is trending on Netflix, skewering this “train wreck” of a year.
Narrated by Laurence Fishburne, the mockumentary by Black Mirror creators Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones was itself panned as a huge disappointment, garnering just 4.3/10 on Rotten Tomatoes. It seems the world is not ready to laugh about the pandemic just yet – despite a stellar cast and admittedly, some weak jokes.
Many of us were certainly happy to see the back of it and with hindsight being 20/20, here are a few things to look out for in 2021:
HOPE FOR MOTORISTS
Last month, there was a glimmer of hope offered to motorists – a shake-up in the automotive aftermarket sector, with the release of the Competition Commission’s final guidelines, which was hailed as good news for consumers, smaller players and new entrants to the market.
The shake-up means that from July 1, vehicles under warranty can be taken to any competent workshop for repairs or services.
The Competition Commission’s investigation had been triggered by complaints by consumers as well as independent operators. Initially intended as voluntary, the guidelines are now compulsory, which means the sector must comply.
The Right to Repair (a leading voice lobbying for inclusion), the Motor Industry Workshop Association, the Motor Industry Federation, African Panelbeaters Motor Mechanics Association, the Tyre, Equipment, Parts Association and the Automotive Remanufacturers’ Association represented repairers and others in the aftersales value chain. The automotive sector comprises the primary manufacturing market and the aftermarket, which includes vehicle retail, the sale of spare parts and equipment, service, maintenance and repairs.
Les McMaster, director at Right 2 Repair, called the guidelines a “nice Christmas surprise” because the guidelines were delayed and only expected next month.
“We didn’t get everything we wanted but we’re happy with most of it, particularly on data-sharing (with parts coded to VIN numbers) and in-warranty servicing, from which we had been excluded for years of the vehicle’s lifespan. It’s a win-win.”
McMaster said the four main benefits to motorists are freedom to shop around; freedom of choice during the warranty period; access to technical information and training by Independent Service Providers; and insurance.
Original equipment manufacturers cannot bundle service plans or motor plans and other value-added products or add-ons with the sale of motor vehi
cles any longer, he said, because they need to be offered as separate products showing the cost and saving for the consumer. “Consumers must insist on getting full disclosure of a vehicle’s purchase price, the prices of service and maintenance plans and other products, all information regarding the maintenance and repair of their motor vehicle, as well as the terms and conditions under which they are required and/or permitted to maintain and repair their vehicle.”
A warranty cannot be voided if a customer chooses to have their vehicle maintained or repaired at an independent service provider. Fitting non-original parts or accessories can also not be penalised.
Insurers are also now obliged to advise customers that they have the right to repair or service their vehicles at a service provider of their choice.
Finally – a win for independent service providers: independent workshops to get the same technical information, programming tools and training as the OEM-approved workshops, as well as access to original spare parts.
After temporarily closing most of its Covid-19 testing drive-through facilities at the end of last month, Dis-Chem has announced that once vaccines become available, it plans to offer both vaccinations and coronavirus testing as a drive-through facility.
Covid-19 vaccinations are not yet available in South Africa but the
Health Department announced last week that a million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine would arrive at the end of this month.
Facebook-owned messenger service WhatsApp has given its more than 2-billion users an ultimatum: share your data with Facebook or lose your account.
WhatsApp users have until February 8 to accept the new privacy terms. Facebook has owned WhatsApp, an encrypted messaging platform, since 2014. In 2016, WhatsApp allowed users a one-off opportunity to opt out of having their data shared with Facebook. Now, they’ll have no choice and users will have to agree to share data including phone numbers, profile name, picturesand address book info with the social network.
In an update, WhatsApp said, “We collect device and connection-specific information when you install, access, or use our services.
This includes information such as hardware model, operating system information, battery level, signal strength, app version, browser information, mobile network, connection information (including phone number, mobile operator or ISP), language and time zone, IP address, device operations information, and identifiers (including identifiers unique to Facebook Company Products associated with the same device or account).”
It said that it partners with Facebook or third parties to help store and better manage their communications with users on WhatsApp.
But as digital forensics expert Craig Pedersen notes on LinkedIn, people simply don’t read the terms and conditions. You cannot suddenly declare your privacy inviolate and throw a tantrum over the terms and conditions of a free service when you’re not even aware of the data you’re already leaking into a porous digital world,” Pedersen says.
“If you want to take your digital privacy seriously, you need to do it consistently and comprehensively across all platforms.”
For more on this, take a gander at the Terms of Service didn’t read website (https://tosdr.org/), to see what you have already agreed to sacrifice in terms of privacy when using Gmail, YouTube, WhatsApp, Instagram and more.
The website holds that “I have read and agree to the terms” is the “biggest lie on the web. We aim to fix that”. The user rights initiative rates and labels T&C policies, from very good (class A), to very bad (class e). YouTube, Facebook and Insta are some of the worst offenders, with WhatsApp a solid C.
For sensitive or personal conversations, there are more robust encryption services – Elon Musk, a vocal critic of Facebook, has cautioned users to delete their WhatsApp and migrate to Signal instead – but Seecrypt and Telegram are highly rated too.
* Georgina Crouth is a consumer watchdog with serious bite. Write to her at [email protected], tweet her @georginacrouth and follow her on Facebook.
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