Sunday, 21 December 2014

Knowledge shared is power gained

(First Published in New Era Newspaper - 15 July 2014)

The following complaint was brought to the attention of Consumer Court last week: “Woermann & Brock does it again! Shelf price N$ 22,49; at the till they charge N$ 23,99. It happens all the time and over and over again. No apologies, nothing, just sheer ignorance! I am convinced that this a deliberate rip off, as this happens regularly. When will the consumers stand up to this?”
The customer also included a photograph of the till slip next to the unit price displayed on the shelf to show that the two differed. Consumer Court contacted the General Manager, Mr Rudolph Fourie, and requested feedback from him regarding the consumer’s complaint. He returned our mail and indicated they would attend to the complaint and thanked us for bringing this to his attention.
On Saturday, I was at my local grocery store (which happens to be Woermann Brock Hyper in Khomasdal), and noticed there was a hive of activity on the floor. Upon closer inspection I noticed that in each row there was a supervisor in charge of checking the price on the shelf against the barcode reading they received when scanning the product. It was very heartening to see the company reacting to the complaint in such a short period of time. A little later, while strolling near the mayonnaise shelf, I noticed an elderly couple doing their shopping. The old lady reached for a particular brand of mayonnaise when I noticed her male companion (husband?), call her attention to the pricing on the shelf. They got into some discussion, and then she returned the brand she had taken and took another brand which obviously had a better pricing option.
This is what the Consumer Court hopes to achieve on behalf of the consumer – having their complaints heard AND acted upon by the business community. Well done to Woermann Brock and we will keep watching to see they adhere to the legal requirement of displaying the correct price on the shelf, and ensuring the consumer is being charged the displayed price at the counter.
Scanner Price Accuracy Code
The consumers in Namibia are regularly being cheated out of their hard earned cash as most modern retailers use shelf pricing that differs from the price the consumer has to pay at the checkout. To combat this we need to put pressure on getting a “Scanner Price Accuracy Code” to be adhered to by all retailers in the country.
The purpose of the code should be to:
  • Visibly demonstrate the commitment by retailers to scanner price accuracy;
  • Provide retailers with a consistent national framework for dealing with scanner price accuracy issues; and
  •  Provide the consumers and the retail industry with a mechanism for consumer redress in scanner price accuracy cases, to be managed by a joint committee of retailers and consumer bodies.

It is further proposed that all retailers implement an Item Free Scanner Policy whereby a customer presents proof that the scanned price at the checkout counter is higher than the price on the shelf (or even higher than advertised) the lower price will be deemed to be the one that will be charged. It is also proposed that should the correct cost of the product be less than N$ 100, then the store will give the product to the consumer free of charge. If the correct cost of the product is more than N$ 100, the store should give the consumer a discount to the value of N$ 100 on the product price.
If the retail industry is willing to work together with consumer bodies, the Namibia Competition Commission can be approached to assist and even endorse such a code.

After the weekly column was written, I received an email from Woermann and Brock stating the following: “On behalf of Woermann & Brock, we apologise for the inconvenience of the customer. We do have a Company Policy in place that when this kind of situation arise, the customer will receive the first item for free, and the second item can be purchased at the lower price indicated on the shelf”. Well done – now we must share it amongst our fellow consumers.

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