On Friday 24 January 2014, the National Consumer Commission’s Head of Advocacy, Education and Awareness, Ms Phumeze Mlungu stated that “SANRAL’s e-tolls terms and conditions are 90% compliant with the Consumer Protection Act” and that “legislative amendments will be required to bring them in line with the Act”.
These statements were made on public television on SABC1 on the “Yilungelo Lakho/It’s your right” current affairs programme of the public broadcaster. She also stated that the National Consumer Commission has received two complaints and four enquires with respect to e-tolling since its launch on 3 December 2013.
Anything that is “90% compliant” is actually NON-COMPLIANT and therefore violates the provisions of the Act. There is a pertinent saying in law which holds “let the buyer beware” and anyone who assents to terms and conditions that violate their rights under the Consumer Protection Act is looking to have their rights violated with their own consent.
For the National Consumer Commission to then state that “legislative amendments will be required to bring SANRAL’s terms and conditions in line with the Act” is an outright admission of collusion between the two State agencies and is furthermore an admission that the National Consumer Commission is not acting in the interests of consumers.
Since Ms Mlungu did not specify which 10% of the SANRAL e-tolling terms and conditions violate the Consumer Protection Act, it is not possible for JPSA to make comment on this beyond saying that both SANRAL and the Department of Trade and Industry’s National Consumer Commission have had more than sufficient time to make certain that SANRAL’s e-tolling terms and conditions comply with the Act, prior to the launch of e-tolling on 3 December 2013.
Furthermore, if the National Consumer Commission is clearly prepared to turn a blind eye to the violation of its own legislation and thereby fail in its supposed mandate of protecting consumer rights, it is hardly surprising that so few people have complained to them.
SANRAL CEO, Nazir Alli has become very fond of pointing his finger at the public and those who oppose e-tolling and accusing them of having “no respect for democracy and the rule of law”, yet he seems to be of the opinion that it is okay for his organisation to openly and flagrantly break the law.
Notwithstanding the apparent violation of the Consumer Protection Act, SANRAL has also recently taken it upon itself to reduce the terms of payment whereupon a 60% discount applies on invoices paid within 30 days to terms of 17 days and less. The period of validity for discounts is legislated in the e-tolls tariff gazette of 19 November 2013.
Both, the National Consumer Commission and SANRAL have made an utter mockery of the laws of South Africa by their collusion and preparedness to violate the very laws they expect others to abide by.
Justice Project South Africa has recently been encouraging members of the public to lodge their complaints over e-tolling with the State controlled National Consumer Commission and we now see the “error of our ways”. We simply cannot with good conscience continue to refer people to a colluding department like the National Consumer Commission.
National Chairman – Justice Project South Africa (NPC)