On Friday 24 January 2014, the National Consumer Commission’s Head of Advocacy, Education and Awareness, Phumeza 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 enquiries with respect to e-tolling since its launch on 3 December 2013.
The Justice Project South Africa (JPSA) highlighted in a press statement that “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,” the JPSA said.
“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.”
The JPSA further slated Mlungu for not specifying which 10% of the Sanral e-tolling terms and conditions violate the Consumer Protection Act.
“It is [therefore] 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,” the JPSA said.
“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.”
The JPSA also took aim at Sanral CEO Nazir Alli, which it said 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”.
However, the JPSA said, Alli seems to be of the opinion that it is okay for his organisation to openly and flagrantly break the law.