Regulators reach accord on consumer complaints - TechCentral

Regulators reach accord on consumer complaints

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Communications regulator Icasa and the National Consumer Commission have signed a memorandum of agreement clearly setting out which type of consumer complaints each will deal with in future.

This is in an an effort to minimise confusion among consumers as well as stamp out “forum shopping” by both companies and complainants, they said on Friday. Together, the regulators handle hundreds of complaints related to the communications, technology and broadcasting sectors from disgruntled consumers each year.

Icasa chief operating officer Willinton Ngwepe said at a media briefing in Sandton on Friday that when the Consumer Protection Act was introduced about five years ago, one of the first priority sectors for the commissioner at the time, Mamodupi Mohlala, was the ICT sector. “There were a number of interventions the commission sought to introduce for the sake of the protection of consumers,” he said.

“But those interventions did not quite yield the results the commission would have liked to have seen. The primary reason was a lack of a cooperative framework between the commission and Icasa … which led to inadequate protection of consumers.”

In addition, Ngwepe said, there was forum shopping by both consumers and industry players. Consumers would go to one of the regulators first and if they weren’t happy with the outcome, would lodge the same complaint with the other regulator. Similarly, companies that were the subject of complaints would object to a particular regulator handling a complaint if they felt uncomfortable dealing with it.

“The primary purpose of the memorandum of agreement is to help us resolve those challenges and create certainty for consumers about how we deal with consumer protection in the sector,” Ngwepe said. The parties have now developing a complaints referral protocol that will outline clearly where Icasa and the National Consumer Commission have primary jurisdiction.

Consumer commissioner Ebrahim Mohamed said the memorandum between the two regulators will make complaint handling and referral “faster and more efficient”.

“As such, the National Consumer Commission will attend to matters relating to contracts, misrepresentation, bait marketing and faulty handsets as well as call limits,” Mohamed said.

“This, in turn, means that Icasa will deal with matters of data, international roaming and pricing as well as quality of networks and call services, among other things.”  — © 2015 NewsCentral Media

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