Time­share probe re­port re­leased by Con­sumer Com­mis­sion

Daily News - - FRONT PAGE - GE­ORGINA CROUTH ge­[email protected]

IT HAS been more than 18 months since the Na­tional Con­sumer Com­mis­sion first launched its in­quiry into the va­ca­tion own­er­ship or time­share in­dus­try, af­ter a lengthy strug­gle to re­solve con­sumer dis­putes.

The NCC re­sorted to the in­quiry af­ter ex­plor­ing other op­tions, as pro­vided for by the Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion Act (CPA), but without suc­cess.

Yes­ter­day, Na­tional Con­sumer Com­mis­sioner Ebrahim Mo­hamed stressed that the re­port should be viewed as an in­quiry “meant to un­ravel and un­der­stand the com­plex­i­ties of the in­dus­try, as­sess the ex­tent of con­sumer chal­lenges, and af­ter as­sess­ing all facts and bal­anc­ing them with re­search, to make rec­om­men­da­tions to im­prove con­sumer pro­tec­tion within the time­share in­dus­try”.

Mo­hamed was handed the re­port at the end of March, and then sent it back to the com­mit­tee.

In Septem­ber, it was fi­nally com­pleted, but it was sent to the in­dus­try for com­ment.

He said most of the rec­om­men­da­tions re­lated to struc­tural and be­havioural prob­lems within the in­dus­try.

“As the NCC, we wit­nessed this when con­sumers made oral sub­mis­sions dur­ing pub­lic hear­ings held in the nine provinces of our coun­try.

“It was most dis­turb­ing and sad to see el­derly, vul­ner­a­ble pen­sion­ers sob and plead with gov­ern­ment for help and re­lief at the pub­lic hear­ings. The great­est dis­com­fort I ex­pe­ri­enced though, was when a Free State-based con­sumer (re­layed) a blow-by-blow ac­count dur­ing her oral sub­mis­sion, of how she had planned to take her own life to es­cape her debt-stricken cir­cum­stances, which were oc­ca­sioned by ‘a mis­take’ she made when she signed up for a life­long ‘time­share trap’,” said Mo­hamed.

The re­port essen­tially puts the onus on the NCC to en­force the CPA, en­gage with other role-play­ers, such as the Con­sumer Goods and Ser­vices Om­buds­man (CGSO), the Na­tional Credit Reg­u­la­tor and oth­ers, to ed­u­cate con­sumers and make rec­om­men­da­tions to the min­is­ter.

The com­mis­sion said it an­tic­i­pated that its rec­om­men­da­tions would be im­ple­mented over a medium to long term, as well as in the short term, de­pend­ing on the will­ing­ness of in­dus­try to en­gage in good faith with it and other stake­hold­ers.

The NCC has re­ferred time­share com­plaints to the Con­sumer Goods and Ser­vices Om­buds­man in re­cent times, which has fa­cil­i­tated can­cel­la­tions for con­sumers.

Mo­hamed said the big­gest is­sues for con­sumers re­lated to the points sys­tem in the time­share in­dus­try, and not with con­ven­tional time­share.

The re­port made rec­om­men­da­tions to the Min­is­ter of Trade and In­dus­try (and called for leg­isla­tive changes – but that is likely to take a while, since, as the de­part­ment re­minded jour­nal­ists: “There’s an elec­tion com­ing and it will take a while for peo­ple to find their feet” in their po­si­tions, so 2019 is not a likely to be the year for change in the in­dus­try.

Alex Bosch, the chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer of the Va­ca­tion Own­er­ship As­so­ci­a­tion of South­ern Africa (Voasa), said he wel­comed the re­port’s re­lease.

He said Voasa would con­tinue to work with the NCC to “achieve the ap­pro­pri­ate bal­ance of rights and obli­ga­tions be­tween con­sumers and sup­pli­ers op­er­at­ing in the in­dus­try”.

For now, con­sumers will be forced to ap­proach the CGSO, who says she is been able to re­solve 51% of cases brought to her of­fice. But since the om­bud scheme is vol­un­tary, if con­sumers do not re­ceive sat­is­fac­tion through that of­fice, it is re­ferred back to the NCC.

The NCC has held dis­cus­sions with Trade and In­dus­try Min­is­ter Rob Davies about the rec­om­men­da­tions and he has called on clubs to re­solve spe­cific com­plaints “without any fur­ther de­lay”.

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