Weddings, cars, funerals, renovations, online orders: complaints soar 48%

20 June 2019 - 16:27 By Wendy Knowler
Complaints to the Consumer Ombudsman are on the rise.
Complaints to the Consumer Ombudsman are on the rise.
Image: 123RF/olegdudko

The Consumer Goods and Services Ombud had a busy start to 2019 - consumer complaints to the office spiked 47% compared with the first quarter of last year.

Topping the list of 1,495 complaints from January to April was what the office termed "quality of services rendered".

"Shoddy service and defective goods routinely top the list of complaints we field," said ombudsman Magauta Mphahlele. "Almost a third of all complaints received relate to services: not being of expected quality, not on time, not as promised, penalties charged for cancellations, overcharging and the refusal to remedy or refund."

She singled out weddings, car rentals, funerals, renovations, moves, accommodation, online orders and beauty treatments as the most common issues consumers complain about.

The ombud included a portion of a consumer’s emailed complaint as an example of a typical supplier non-delivery scenario.

"I ordered a trampoline mat from the supplier (online) on March 21 and paid R3,250.

"I have contacted the owner a few times and to date have not received the mat. I asked him to refund me as they cannot supply the mat. Every time I contact him he blames it on the receptionist, the suppliers, says he or his child was in hospital, or his landlines are not working."

Section 54 of the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) guides suppliers on how to maintain good customer relations and service levels, Mphahlele said.

"They are basically required to deliver on their promises and to let their customers know if the service will not be delivered as agreed or promised.

Where deposits or up-front payments are required, make sure you trust the supplier or have done proper background checks of the company.

"They must advise consumers of the terms and conditions relating to cancellations and related penalties, under what conditions refunds will be given and what procedures and timeframes consumers need to comply with," she said.

"All these must be provided to consumers in clear and understandable language and must not be hidden in small print."

If they don’t deliver as promised, suppliers must remedy any defects, refund their customer a reasonable portion of the price paid for the services performed and goods supplied, if they were sub-standard, Mphahlele said.

Be vigilant when entering into service agreements by paying attention to cancellation timeframes, penalties, delivery times and procedures for returns and refunds, the ombud urged consumers.

"Where deposits or upfront payments are required, make sure you trust the supplier or have done proper background checks of the company.

Had the person done a HelloPeter search for that trampoline company, for example, they would have found more than 50 terrible reviews about it, going back four years.

"Our advice is to rather, where possible, opt for progress payments based on the work completed, and avoid any full upfront payments before the service is completed or product delivered."


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