Consumers under siege in this land

Image: Kgothatso Madisa

Just when, if ever, is the consumer in this country going to get a break from unscrupulous service and product providers with no qualms at making a dirty buck out of ordinary people's patronage?

News broke out two days ago of how a leading motor manufacturer and the second-largest seller of automobiles in the country, VW South Africa, has been ordered to repay millions of rand to car buyers who have over the years been made to pay for illegal add-on fees when purchasing cars.

The National Consumer Tribunal found that charges added to credit purchases - the only way the vast majority of car buyers can afford to purchase automobiles - were in contravention of the National Credit Act.

Among those were so-called on-road fees, administration fees and handling fees.

Although VW SA has been ordered to refund consumers such unlawful fees, other automakers face similar sanctions, for they keep benefiting from such illicit practices.

In our report on the story yesterday, we quoted acting manager of investigations and enforcement at the tribunal, Anne-Carien du Plooy as saying: "There is more than one investigation being conducted. [We will need] to finalise investigations and decide what action needs to be taken [against] credit providers."

As it stands today, VW Financial Services SA has been ordered to: "Cease the practice and conduct of charging consumers such fees."

The company now has to calculate the total amount of charges, fees or interest levied on consumers and duly refund them.

It is an all-too-familiar tale of the consumer being taken for a ride in this country. Often it is big business who get away with murder because they have huge war chests to fight any litigation over their immoral practices.

Today, in the consumer section of this newspaper, we highlight another unbecoming practice which may have cost hundreds, if not millions, of motorists dearly in inflated insurance premiums due to unfair adverse credit scorings on their profiles.

However, as we wait for consumer warriors such as our very own Thuli Zungu, to expose the next big bad wolves in big business robes, the only defence an ordinary consumer may have is to meticulously check what they are signing for, and ask questions.

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