SA's richest top 'bitch list'
Wealthier consumers are the biggest users of the services of the National Consumer Commission, according to its deputy head.
Most complaints filed with the commission are from Gauteng, the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, Thezi Mabuza told a conference in Johannesburg, but people from Gauteng complained far more than consumers from other provinces.
"This is sad. It tells us we are only serving the affluent," she said.
Mabuza said this could be because most complaints were filed by e-mail, which poorer consumers do not always have access to, and overall black and white consumers complained to the watchdog more than coloureds and Indians.
The trade sector with the highest number of complaints, at 28%, was the retail industry. Mabuza said this was not a surprise as it was where the bulk of transactions took place.
Just behind was the information and communications technology sector, which Mabuza called "worrying".
Cliff Johnston, of the non-governmental SA National Consumer Union organisation, said that consumers of ICT goods and services did not always receive the protection of the Consumer Protection Act because network providers such as Vodacom and Cell C took their cues from the Independent Communications Authority of SA.
According to Johnston, Icasa's code of conduct for network providers offered poorer protection to consumers.
"You get the full protection of the CPA if you buy a cellphone at a shop instead of from a network service provider, for example," he said.
At least 18% of the NCC's complaints were lodged against the motor vehicle industry.
Mabuza also revealed that the highest number of complaints came from young adults under 35, an age group with high levels of employment.
The lowest number of complaints were from consumers over 60 and pensioners.
Black Sash Trust paralegal Vincent Skhosana said the statistics showed that many South Africans, especially the elderly, had poor access to the services of the NCC.
"More than 20 people call our office a day to complain of irregular grant deductions and don't know where to go for assistance," Skhosana said.