The Eastern Cape Department of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEDEAT) welcomes the signing into operation of the Eastern Cape Consumer Protection Act 2018 (Act No.3 of 2018).
“It has been signed into operation by the Eastern Cape Premier, the honourable Lubabalo Oscar Mabuyane, effective from the 1 June 2020,” said Ncedo Lisani, Communications and Marketing Manager at the EC Department of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism.
The Act gives the Department wide ranging powers including the power to establish the Office of the Consumer Protector (OCP) and Consumer Tribunal with full jurisdiction over the Eastern Cape.
“In terms of the Act, the OCP is now empowered to initiate and/or receive and investigate consumer complaints; facilitate mediation and conciliation of consumer disputes arising among persons resident or persons carrying business exclusively in the Province,” explained Lisani.
The Office can also issue compliance notices and/ or refer matters to the Consumer Tribunal.
“In simple terms, the Act enables the Office to act on complaints or disputes where a consumer alleges breach of the rights as set out in the Consumer Protection Act,’’ says the MEC for DEDEAT, Mlungisi Mvoko.
“This Act has significantly bolstered the OCP’s authority and given the Office real teeth to be able to enforce many consumer rights that maybe undermined in one way or the other.
“Yes we are happy to see this Act coming into operation because it empowers us to act, we see this in Section 8 (2) (b) of the Act wherein the OCP is now empowered to issue compliance notices in cases where the conduct of a business is found to be improper in terms of the National Consumer Protection Act.”
If a business fails to comply with the notice, the consumer protector can, amongst others, apply for a hearing with the Consumer Tribunal which can impose significant administrative fines. Some of the penalties could include a fine, imprisonment of up to 10 years or both.
Lesser offences will attract a fine, imprisonment of up to 12 months or both.
“Through the establishment of a Consumer Tribunal, a significant landmark of its own, sections 22 to 31 substantially beef up the role of OCP” added Mvoko.
The tribunal is to consist of six members including chairperson and deputy chairperson who should have extensive legal background. Other members need to have consumer advocacy, economics, industry, commerce or law experience.
This signing into operation of the Act could not have come at a better time, the time when businesses and consumers alike are facing massive financial setbacks due to COVID 19 pandemic, and this usually leads to desperate and often unsavoury conduct and as the Department we are now ready to act and act decisively to protect consumers and thus protect the economy.
The complaints that the OCP deals with range from furniture and household appliance defects and repairs, buying motor vehicle parts and repairs, and buying second-hand vehicles, financial services like credit agreements or problems with cell phones, home improvements/building construction, retail, insurance, lay-byes and debt etcetera.
Eastern Cape Consumer Protection Act, 2018 (Eastern Cape) provides for the realisation and protection of consumer rights, establishments of the Office of the Consumer Protector and its functioning, establishments of the Office of the Consumer Tribunal and its functioning and to repeal consumer affairs in the Province of the Eastern Cape.
The Eastern Cape Department of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism aims to have a transformed, diversified and inclusive economy by 2030.
For consumer-related enquiries, please call EC Consumer Protection Office, call centre number is 0860007255.