As the year comes to an end, I look back at take stock of what our consumer activism has achieved in 2014. Looking across the media spectrum, I am pleased to note that it is not only the New Era newspaper that has a consumer column. In addition, I appreciate the work being done by new media (mostly from within the traditional media houses) in bringing issues to the attention of consumers, activists and lawmakers. Facebook groups such as the Namibia Consumer Protection Group (NCPG) page have seen a drastic increase in postings, as well as feedback from business.
Now that there is more attention on consumer issues, the question must be asked: Has there been an increase in consumer protection during 2014?
The answer is (unfortunately) NO.
Allow me a few examples:
Just this past week, I ran out of credit on my cell phone. I was sent a reminder by my provider that my credit would run out – the warning though came one day before it ran out, not at the same time it runs out as in the past. At first, I was not too perturbed as I would notice after my first call on the next day that I was off the super package. However, the next morning I sent through my SMS request to purchase the package and went about my business as usual. That evening, I received a message that N$ 2.00 was deducted from my account for data usage. I immediately checked my phone as I had never received such a message before. On checking I found that the service provider had sent me a SMS that I could not participate in this offer as I was already on that specific package. Yet, somehow, later in the same day, my package expired. Now I was deducted N$2.00 and did not have enough funds for the super package anymore.
The service provider had changed my agreement with them regarding informing me of when my package rant out, and had started deducting an “automatic” data charge because my phone used data.
Definitely now a New Year’s wish of mine to get the Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (CRAN) to clamp down on these “profit” making practices.
In another example, I received the following from a customer:
“Shelve prices at a certain hyper store (name known to Consumer Court) is a joke once you get to the pay-point (till). I had to request the cashier 4 times for 4 different products to charge me the price displayed on the shelf. I have had this experience several times at the same store and at others of the same chain. People are just paying without checking the price. I wonder how many people are robbed in this way on a daily basis. Every N$1 counts and makes up thousands of N$ on a daily basis. Even when you speak to the cashiers they are also acknowledging and complaining, because they are the ones to hear all the complaints and insults from customers.”
This same wholesaler had a complaint through Consumer Court earlier this year and they rectified it within a week. Now however, this same business is back and not doing what is best for the consumer.
The question is thus, as consumer activists we have made the problem known in the media, however Namibian businesses believe (or know) that consumers have no legal recourse and this continue with this type of unethical business practices.
We as consumers must become more active and in the language of the liberation, Each One must Teach One. That is the only way to measure our success and get consumers to know their own rights.