Tribunal gives angry consumers a voice

Zweli Mokgata

Zweli Mokgata

Consumers will as of next month be able to bring a wider range of complaints to the National Consumer Tribunal.

The tribunal has been adjudicating since November 2007 but was focused only on credit-related matters.

But with the expected promulgation of the Consumer Protection Act, the tribunal will have broader jurisdiction.

Keith Marshall, regional manager of the Liabilities Group at AIG South Africa, explained that under the act "suppliers, be they producer, distributor or retailer, can now be held liable for any damage caused by goods regardless of fault on the part of the supplier.

"Contrary to the current law, no negligence needs to be proved. There just needs to be a causal link between harm, as defined by the Bill, and the defective product."

Until now, consumers could only approach the tribunal on issues relating to credit providers.

The establishment of the tribunal follows a strong international trend to deal with specialised technical, labour and consumer issues outside of the conventional court system.