The Consumer Protection Act is now a reality and is already making its impact on consumers and suppliers. Even though many companies have done their bit to ensure that they comply with the new Act, some are still waiting to see if the bite is as good as the bark when it comes to enforcement.
On this day, 28 July 2011, the DTI have finally published the final guidelines for enforcement which provides guidance and clarity with regard to how the CPA will be enforced. “These Guidelines are meant to ensure that the NCC gives effect to Section 3(1) by ensuring that the NCC resolves complaints in a procedurally fair, economical and expeditious manner through Conciliation.”
What do the guidelines deal with?
These guidelines deal with issues such as:
- what is a complaint;
- who can lodge a complaint;
- whom can a complaint be lodged against;
- what kind of matters can the National Consumer Commission deal with and what not; and
- other guidelines and procedures with regard to resolving a complaint.
With regards to conciliation the guidelines provide for the following mediation methods that may be employed by officials in Complaints Handling :
- telephonic mediation;
- written mediation; and
- face to face conciliation.
This diversification of mediation methods will make it a lot easier for consumers to have their matters attended to and their complaint investigated.
Complaints received regarding suppliers conduct will be investigated and the purpose investigations into suppliers’ conduct will be to determine:
- whether an offence has been committed in terms of the CPA;
- whether the supplier has engaged in a prohibited conduct; and
- the remedy to be put in place to resolve a transgression.
Purpose of the guidelines
The purpose of the guidelines are to:
- promote an understanding of Conciliation by the NCC
- inform parties in a dispute of the policies and procedures of Conciliation under the auspices of the NCC.
- prescribe the powers and functions of the Conciliator.
- guide Conciliators in the performance of their functions.
In essence they will give consumers, suppliers and conciliators guidance as to the implementation of the CPA
In essence they will give consumers, suppliers and conciliators guidance as to the implementation of the CPA. If you still have not had a fresh look at your documents, policies and way you do business in light of the CPA you must do so now, before you become the subject of such a process or investigation.
Start by making all your communications in plain language and ensuring that you know how the CPA affects your day-to-day business so that you can align your business with the requirements of the Act.