FS customers most exploited in the country

FS customers most exploited in the country

According to the Acting Commissioner of the National Consumer Commission (NCC) Thezi Mabuza, customers in the Free State province are the most exploited in the country, whereby you find prices of products are double the price compared to other provinces.

Not only are the customers charged the exuberant prices, the level of none compliance by businesses in the province is very high; at times businesses are selling unsafe cheap products to customers that have expired.

Mabuza explained that, South Africa is using the free economy system where it is assumed that the market will balance itself out; whereby customers are free to shop around for a cheaper product compared to their competitors. But since the Free State is faced with such anomaly of prices, it says maybe the laws are not crafted well enough to protect consumers to ensure that the prices in Gauteng are similar to that in the Free State.

“Before the promulgation of the Consumer Protection Act, when we had the Unfair Business Practices Act, there was an area of monitoring the prices. Now when the Consumer Protection Act was promulgated, that area of monitoring prices fell away; so for now we cannot intervene in the setting of prices because consumers are free to go and buy where prices are lesser,” said Thezi Mabuza.

The Acting Commissioner pointed out that, though consumers are free to buy where prices are cheap, it may turn out expensive, mainly because shops close to them may be expensive, so they are forced to travel far, spend taxi fare to go to town to buy a cheaper product which does not make economic sense.

Mabuza says there are systemic issues in the regulations that need to be addressed hence there is a review process in terms of the regulations in place which assist the NCC for when they pick up irregularities or problems in the regulations, they can take them back to parliament to be reviewed.

The Company Secretary for NCC Joseph Selolo said, there are also other factors in the market that dictate the prices, like supply and demand, however, the Competition Commission monitors prices to ensure that prices that are set in areas, are not anti-competitive, meaning, suppliers should not collude on prices by agreeing on one price of their products, then they will not be competing.

“We also have that authority that has that rule to ensure that there is no collusion but there is competition,” said Selolo.

When it comes to the high levels of none compliance in the Free State, Thezi Mabuza says it is a collective laxity on the issue regulation. Municipalities and provincial governments alongside the NCC need to play their role in implementing their bylaws and regulations. She says because of the lax regulations, it forces all the entities to work together and look at the areas of weaknesses and look for compliances.

Mabuza says since they have come to the end of financial year, it gives the entities an opportunity to reflect and plan for the next fiscal year in terms of issuing out certificates of acceptability for businesses, the issues of use by and sell by dates.


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