Telecommunication-related gripes top complaints to ombud

23 August 2018 - 19:22 By Wendy Knowler
Given the cost of cellphone data‚ the controversial issue of data “expiry”‚ problematic handsets and Telkom’s catastrophic service lapses‚ it’s hardly surprising that nearly a third of all complaints had to do with phones.
Given the cost of cellphone data‚ the controversial issue of data “expiry”‚ problematic handsets and Telkom’s catastrophic service lapses‚ it’s hardly surprising that nearly a third of all complaints had to do with phones.
Image: 123rf/Anastasy Yarmolovich

Telecommunications-related gripes topped the Consumer Goods and Services Ombud (CGSO) complaints list in the last financial year‚ the organisation revealed on Thursday.

Given the cost of cellphone data‚ the controversial issue of data “expiry”‚ problematic handsets and Telkom’s catastrophic service lapses‚ it’s hardly surprising that nearly a third of all complaints had to do with phones.

Were it not for the fact that the car complaints are dealt with by the Motor Industry Ombud‚ they would no doubt have featured in the top three.

As it was‚ the other issues which generated the bulk of complaints in the 2017/18 financial year were related to electrical appliances‚ furniture‚ timeshare‚ computers‚ building material‚ clothing and footwear.

For the ombud’s complaints team‚ the year must have felt very much like the previous year: they logged 5‚593 complaints - just two fewer than the year before.

Of those which were in the ombud’s jurisdiction‚ 64% were resolved fully or partially in favour of the consumer‚ up from 48% the previous year.

In contrast‚ the ombuds’ offices operating in the financial services sector - banking and insurance - resolve most complaints in favour of the companies.

Most (45%) of the CGSO complaints came via the ombud’s website ‚ but 32% were forwarded by the National Consumer Commission‚ indicating that many consumers remain unaware that while the commission is mandated to regulate the Consumer Protection Act (CPA)‚ it does not take up individual consumer complaints.

Instead it refers unhappy consumers to one of the provincial consumer complaints offices or to the various ombudsmen’s offices‚ which have been mandated to deal with CPA-related complaints.

“Consumers should ideally deal with suppliers who display the CGSO decal‚ indicating that they subscribe to the CGSO code‚ as this will give them the assurance that the supplier has committed to complying with the Consumer Protection Act and to addressing complaints in a speedy and fair manner” said acting ombudsman Magauta Mphahlele.

“Sometimes‚ we are forced to close a file because the supplier can’t be located‚” she said.

Although companies are breaching the CPA by refusing to co-operate with the CGSO‚ the ombud has no power to sanction them‚ and must instead refer them to the National Consumer Tribunal for non-compliance.

“In the last financial year‚ we closed 679 cases due to non-co-operation from the suppliers‚” Mphahlele said. “384 of them were referred to the NCC for possible investigation.”

The average time taken by the CGSO to finalise cases in the year under review was around six weeks - down from two months in the previous year.

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