Working together to create a consumer-friendly South Africa
ROLE OF THE NATIONAL CONSUMER COMMISSION
The National Consumer Commission (NCC) is the chief regulator of consumer-business interaction, and was established on 1 April 2011, in terms of Section 85 of the Consumer Protection Act No. 68 of 2008, which it administers. As a schedule 3A public entity, the NCC functions independently but reports to the Minister of Trade and Industry.
The NCC is charged with the responsibility to enforce and carry out the functions assigned to it in terms of the Act. The Act seeks to promote a fair, accessible and sustainable marketplace for consumer products and services and for that purpose to establish national norms and standards relating to consumer protection throughout the Republic of South Africa. It further seeks to provide for improved standards of consumer information, to prohibit certain unfair marketing and business practices, to promote responsible consumer behaviour and to promote a consistent legislative and enforcement framework relating to consumer transactions and agreements.
The NCC is not permitted to conciliate or adjudicate on disputes between consumers and suppliers. Instead, it can only investigate complaints. However, it is not possible to investigate all complaints. It is for this reason that consumers are required to firstly attempt resolution of their disputes with suppliers. In the event the dispute is not resolved with the supplier, the NCC recommends that the consumer approach the Provincial Consumer Protection Authority in their respective provinces or the relevant industry ombud before approaching the NCC. The NCC is currently focusing on expanding alternate dispute resolution mechanisms with the support of industries, sectors and sub sectors throughout the Republic so as to ensure that consumers are able to obtain speedy settlement of their disputes with suppliers.
The NCC’s work over the past three years
The NCC is still a relatively young entity. It has learnt some valuable lessons over the past three years of its existence. The most important lesson learnt is that it is impossible to deal with the resolution of each and every complaint lodged with it. Section 99 of the Act also makes it clear that it is not expected of the Commission to do so. The ultimate task of the Commission is to investigate prohibited conduct. This aspect has been reflected upon earlier in this overview.
Sound, clear, understandable policies, processes and financial systems provide the backbone for the effective and efficient functioning of any organisation. Much of the past 18 months was dedicated to achieving this.