Why business is a crime in SA

Picture: Moneyweb

Picture: Moneyweb

One of the biggest, and most blatant, illegal things being done by business at the moment is the deliberate defiance of stipulations in the Consumer Protection Act.

A few years ago, I shocked (and possibly annoyed) an acquaintance when he was talking about the “wonderful work” being done by Business Against Crime.

In this country, I shot back, business is a crime …

I know that sounds a bit extreme, but if you look at the myriad ways in which business (big and small) tries to gouge you into paying extra or tries to rip you off for some non-existent service or product, perhaps you’ll come around to my way of thinking.

The current ongoing story about sharp business revolves around those dodgy companies who provide “value added” services on your cellphone. Apparently, according to Noseweek, people are getting billed for these by the major service providers … despite never having signed up for them. The networks appear to be, in most cases, walking away from it. It obviously provides a nice little income stream.

Cell companies are also accused of failing to honour the Independent Communication Authority of SA ruling that data should not “expire”. This is one of the only countries in the world where that happens.

The other day I got a call from the FNB call centre, informing me I could get e-bucks if I filled up at Engen. Next up was a pitch for the “amazing” R99-a-month deal which would cover my cover for “scratches and dents”.

I told call centre man I had financed my car through FNB’s Wesbank subsidiary and, because it was less than a year old and looked pristine, I had signed up for the additional R99- a-month protection for scratches and dents. When I tried to claim, I was treated as though I was a criminal.

The limit of liability was R3,000 and, surprise, surprise, the “re-finishers” (fensie name for panel beaters) they recommended wanted to charge R6,000, so they couldn’t pay out. When we found a shop that did a good job for just over R2,200, the “insurers” wouldn’t pay. Not an “approved”supplier, you see.

Then a friend of ours saw a car she needed to replace hers, which had been written off in a crash. It was R110,000 but the dealership wanted to add an extra R10,000 for “delivery” charges. This is one of the most common scams in the motor business and is the grown-up, thuggier brother of the R300 charge for “consumables” on your service bill. (Cloths and hand wash, and possibly some car shampoo?)

Dealerships add in thousands of rands for doing change of ownership at the licensing department (apparently because one of their people has to queue) plus all kinds of odds and sods. Worst is with new cars, where many clients get charged for the “pre-delivery inspection”, which is something the seller should do anyway.

One of the biggest, and most blatant, illegal things being done by business at the moment is the deliberate defiance of stipulations in the Consumer Protection Act.

If you have bought something after a phone pitch, you can change your mind in seven days and pull out of the contract. If you buy something in the shop, or online and it does not prove fit for purpose, by breaking for example, you can return it for a refund of your money or a replacement.

You are not entitled to change your mind as buyer’s remorse sets in. What companies are not entitled to do is to force you to have a defective product repaired. And you can return goods for up to six months after purchase. Yet still, people get lied to.

Gotta love capitalism…

Brendan Seery.

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