CHAIRPERSON’S REPORT

SOUTH AFRICAN NATIONAL CONSUMER UNION

CHAIRMAN’S REPORT

1 SEPTEMBER 2017 – 31 AUGUST 2018

I am pleased to submit the Chairman’s Report of the South African National Consumer Union for the period 1 September 2017 to 31 August 2018 to our members.

Background

SANCU is a voluntary Non-Governmental and Non-Profit Organisation.  SANCU aims to educate consumers on their rights, promote consumer awareness and most of all let the consumers voice be heard on the many Boards and Committees we serve on.

Sancu Strategic Plan

At the beginning of 2018 the Executive Committee reviewed SANCU's strategic plan.  The mission, vision and strapline (motto) were updated to read as follows:

Mission:  To be known and recognised as a credible, proactive and effective national consumer union that advises, informs and educates consumers, assertively promotes consumer rights, and represents consumers on relevant decision making bodies.

Vision:  The most respected, influential and trusted NGO in South Africa proactively representing the interests of consumers in all spheres of economic activity.

Strapline:  Advocating consumer interests

ExCo reviewed who SANCU's primary and supporting customers are, and what each of these groups value, in order to focus attention on these aspects.  ExCo also reviewed SANCU's successes in recent times in influencing and changing the practices of various bodies in favour of consumers.  These successes were achieved through direct representation on boards and in committees, as well as by submitting written comments on proposed legislation and other developments.  Action plans were developed to address membership and financial challenges by providing more feedback to members and by increasing the visibility of SANCU's actions and successes on the web site and through social media.

Members

SANCU’s Associate Members play a vital role in keep SANCU functioning.  Their membership enable us to run an office efficiently.  The sponsorships received for projects is greatly appreciated, all booklets printed are distributed free of charge, which we would be unable to do without the support of our Associate Members.  To those Associates that manage to attend our meetings, thank you very much.  To those that cannot attend, we appreciate your feedback on emails that we distribute.

I would like to express my gratitude to the many Affiliate Members that travel far to attend our meetings and provide valuable input at our meetings.

Honorary Membership

At last year’s AGM Honorary Membership was bestowed on Mrs Marie van der Merwe (myself)

Consumer Cup

SANCU had the privilege of presenting the Consumer Cup to Ms Lucinda Filander of Shoprite Checkers for their continuing support of SANCU.

During the year under review consumers were once again faced with unfavourable conditions in their day to day economic activities.  In line with the challenges referred to in the previous year’s report, fuel price increases, cost of electricity, sugar tax, proposed carbon tax, unfavourable exchange rates, and the increase in the Value Added Tax, keep haunting vulnerable consumers.  Following the outcry against the increase of VAT, Treasury appointed a Committee to investigate the possibility of adding some products to the list of VAT-exempt items.  We engaged with our members to establish which products they would like to be added to the existing list.  Eventually the following items were added to the list: 

Peanut butter (motivation received from SA Groundnut Forum

Red Meat – especially offal (motivation received from the Red Meat Industry Forum)

Poultry fresh and frozen

Sorghum Meal

Macaroni and Spaghetti

Polonies

Long Life Milk

Although good rains brought relief to many areas, especially in the Western and Eastern Cape, severe drought is still contributing to the misery of some farming communities.  It is expected that the wheat crop will be bigger than the previous year, resulting in less wheat to be imported.  This is good news for consumers as the availability of bread will not be compromised.

The current discussions regarding the expropriation of land without compensation is also a matter of concern.  The Executive Committee of Sancu has discussed this issue on several occasions and ruled that this is not a consumer issue.  However, the discussions have escalated to a level where it is not only agricultural land that is at stake, but also residential properties and this has a direct impact on consumers.  During the last couple of weeks the banking sector made it clear that should a property be expropriated without compensation, the current owner will still be liable for payment of the bond obligations.  During the debates that took place on this issue, it was clearly indicated that the expropriation of agricultural land without compensation, food security in South Africa will be compromised.  Sancu is represented on most of the discussions on this issue.

Another bone of contention for many consumers is the proposed National Health Insurance.  Consumers who are members of medical schemes will be the most vulnerable as they will have to pay their medical aid fees as well as contribute to the NHI.  However, this is an ongoing discussion and it is uncertain in what format this will be implemented.

Executive Committee Meetings

Exco members are all volunteers and meet on a monthly basis to discuss consumer related issues, complaints, legislation which might have an impact on consumers, nominate members to serve on various boards, trusts or any other organisation requesting consumer representation and regularly discuss the role of our various members and the interaction we wish to have with them on a regular basis.

Exco members represent consumers on the following Boards and Committees:

AGRICULTURE

Agricultural Trade Forum                          Groundnut Forum

Dairy Standards Agency                          Oil & Protein Seeds Development Trust

Maize Forum & Steering Committee           Oils Seeds Advisory Committee

Sunflower & Soybeans Forum                             Potato Industry Forum

Sorghum Forum                                     Wheat Forum & Steering Committee

Winter Cereal Trust                               

FINANCE

Credit Ombud Council                              National Credit Regulator

FOOD/NUTRITION

Food Legislation Advisory Group                Food Advisory Consumer Service
 
MEAT

Red Meat Industry Forum                        Red Meat Research & Development

SA BUREAU OF STANDARDS

Impartiality Committee

Jennifer Tselentis undertook a comprehensive investigation into the Sugar Tax and attended many of the Free Market Foundation Media Briefings.

Tutti Rudman attended all the Advertising Standards Committee meetings and made sure the consumers’ voice was heard.  Tutti made valuable contributions at the all the Red Meat Industry Forum meetings she attended.

Dr Clif Johnston attended many meetings this year:

SABS TC138/SC6  Plastic pipes and fittings - Attended a further three meetings on a project to revise two standards on plastic sewage pipes and fittings for above-ground applications.  The project was concluded successfully and in the publication process.  The revision corrected an inappropriate requirement for protection against degradation due to ultraviolet light, which had resulted in early failures.

SABS TC176:  Quality assurance and management - attended one meeting.  SANCU's interest is maintenance of the SANS 10 000- series of standards on customer satisfaction

SABS TC217: Cosmetics - attended Sunscreen Working Group meeting.  Managed to get enhanced protection against ultraviolet radiation specified for all sunscreens with an SPF greater than 15.

Free Market Foundation - attended meeting on medical aid/insurance

Right to repair (Motor Industry) - met with representatives of this organization and agreed to cooperate with them (nothing much has come of this)

SABS TC007: Consumer standards - attended two meetings of this committee.  Work includes projects for standards on Cross-border trade in second-hand goods, Online reputation, Swimming pool safety, Consumer warranties and guarantees, Unit pricing, and Labelling of consumer products containing manufactured nano-objects.

Dairy appeal board - chaired a DAFF Appeal Board which ruled on a product labelling issue.

SABS TC301 Energy Management - Concluded work on the standard "Energy services - Guidelines for the assessment and improvement of energy services to users."  The standard (SANS 50007) has now been published.

SABS TC64/SC1 Lamps, lights and auxilliaries - Work is being done to address the new LED lamps which are now flooding the market.

SABS TC70/SC4 Legal metrology - Sale of goods.  Work being done on the control and labelling of quantities in which products are sold. SANCU wishes to tighten up the regulations regarding placement of quantity indication and increase the step size between different permitted quantities to discourage product downsizing.  SANCU is also promoting the concept of Unit Pricing.

Workshop on consumer representation in standards development - Conducted a workshop for SABS Standards personnel.

NRCS working group on luminaires (light fittings and lampholders) - Attended a meeting and recommended that NRCS exempts safety requirements in respect of low-voltage LED luminaires that operate in the "Safety extra low voltage" range (such as 12V or 24V) as these are inherently safe, and are finding increasing application among rural communities where cost considerations are critical.

NATIONAL REGULATOR FOR COMPULSORY SPECIFICATIONS 

VC 8043 Comp. Spec. for incandescent lamps      
Trade Metrology - Stakeholder engagements
VC Comp. Spec. for plastic bags 
All levy negotiations

OTHER

Advertising Standards Authority                           
Society of Consumer Professionals

Consumer Goods Services Ombud                      
Electrical Contracting Board

Health Quality Assessment

OTHER EVENTS ATTENDED BY EXCO MEMBERS ON BEHALF OF SANCU

Free Market Foundation discussion on medical aid/insurance

Workshop on consumer representation in standards development. Dr Clif Johnston conducted a workshop for SABS Standards personnel

Energy Indaba

CEO Forum hosted by the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries

Credit Ombud Council launch of their 2017 Annual Report.  It was highlighted that during the year under review more than R15 million was saved for consumers.

Breakfast Seminar on Expropriation without Compensation was hosted by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

Credit Ombud Council hosted a Russian delegation who is interested to learn how SA deals with non-banking credit conflict resolution, with a view to implementing a similar system in Russia.

During the period under review the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries established three Appeal Boards following inspections by officials in terms of the Agricultural Products Standards Act.  Two members of Exco were requested to serve on these Appeal boards, one member chaired one of the Boards.

The National Credit Regulator invited stakeholders to a discussion on the effect of the affordability assessment regulations (Regulation 23A of the National Credit Act) on consumers.  The stakeholders represented consumer groups/civic organisations, credit bureaus and credit providers.  All stakeholders agreed that consumers are not educated on credit in general.  It was emphasised that often consumers are so desperate to obtain loans that they “go underground” and land up being exploited by unscrupulous money lenders.  The NCR undertook to provide the results of the assessment to the participants.

The Free Market Foundation held a media briefing where Wayne Duvenage of OUTA was the speaker.  He reminded the audience of the journey OUTA has embarked on since the e-toll saga unfolded.

Listerioses seminar hosted by the dti.  Sadly the Departments of Health and Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries were not attending to provide their inputs regarding the actions taken, or not taken, when the outbreak of Listerioses was announced on 4 March 2018.

Health Quality Assessment (HQA) held their 14th Annual Industry Results Presentation and Clinical Quality Conference.  HQA is of the firm believe that measuring and reporting on clinical quality is in the interest of a more sustainable health care sector.  Sharing of clinical quality measures and results allows medical funds, managed care organisations and provider groups to continuously improve the clinical quality of the care they fund/manage/provide.  As an end goal the consumer should be empowered to find the best value for his money when seeking a medical fund, health insurance, hospital or doctor.  HQA is now challenged to take the next step for moving towards developing and reporting outcomes measures.

RECOMMENDATIONS

SANCU annually tables recommendations at its AGM.  These recommendations are forwarded to the relevant authorities and often it is noted that some of the recommendations are implemented although we do not receive official notification thereof.

GENERAL MEETINGS

SANCU once again managed to attract excellent guest speakers at our general meetings.  We are indeed grateful that they were prepared to share their knowledge and expertise with our members at no cost to SANCU.

The following topics were addressed during the year under review:

Red Meat Abattoir Association  :  Listeriosis

Free Market Foundation : NHI and Cost of Medical Aids in the future

Consumer Profile Bureau : Balancing customer compliance with satisfaction

LP Gas Association of SA  :  Using gas safely

SABS

I would like to extend my sincere thank you to the Acting CEO of the SABS Mr Garth Strachan for supply SANCU with offices and for opening up the use of the prestigious Acacia Room for our General Meetings. In addition the SABS has granted SANCU use of their 3rd floor Committee Rooms for our Exco Meetings.  These are all supplied at no cost to SANCU.

PUBLIC RELATIONS

SANCU once again feature prominently in the media by way of our Press Releases or direct contact from journalist.  The following are subjects that were featured : 

Consequences of Listeriosis should be dire

Word Consumer Rights Day

Warn consumers to check sell by dates

SANCU denounces Eskom Price Increase

Christmas spending

Consumer applaud Nersa ruling on Eskom tariffs

VAT Increase beware of new prices

Network Dialling Codes to Change

Competition Commission launches abuse of dominance investigation against Vodacom

Sell by dates

Egg Shortage

ICASA Data

Pick n Pay Groceries on Credit

The Executive Office launched SANCU’s first Facebook page, which has been very well received by consumers.  Ann urges members to forward any consumer news to her for inclusion on the page.

OFFICE REPORTS

At each General Meeting the Executive Officer gives and extensive report on SANCU activities for the previous two months.  These reports are circulated with the Minutes.

SANCU SUBMITTED COMMENTS ON THE FOLLOWING: 

Proposed Inspection Fees to be implemented by assignees appointed by DAFF

Establishment of a breeding and technology levy on wheat, barley and oats

Statutory Measures for the Macadamia Industry

Sugar Tax

RMIF Application for Statutory Measures

Comments Cotton and Lint application for Statutory Measures

Comments on Table Eggs application for Statutory Measures

Comments on recommended debt counselling fees

Letter of congratulations to the newly appointed NAMC CEO

Submitted comments on the MIO Draft Code of Conduct

Submitted comments to Nersa on the Eskom price increase application for 2017/2018

Submitted comments to NAMC on Imported chicken products

Submitted comment on Sunscreen Products that contain SPF

Comments on application Statutory Measures for Maize and Wheaten Products

Submitted a list of Zero-Rated items to be considered for Vat exemption – National Treasury. 

COMPLAINTS

For the period 1.10.2018 – 31.8.2018 SANCU received 274 complaints. Of these 274 complaints 250 were resolved in favour of the consumer.  Online loans was a constant complaint as was vehicle relate complaints.  Advice was given to many of SABS employees on how to work out a budget and how to go about lodging their complaints with the various Ombud’s offices. 

CONSUMER INFORMATION

Advice was given to many of SABS employees and walk-ins on how to work out a budget and how to go about lodging their complaints with the various Ombud’s offices i.e. assisting with completing the forms and which documents to attach.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Since all Exco members are volunteers, they nevertheless attend many meetings without being remunerated and I can only thank them for their dedication to SANCU and their efforts to engage in matters on behalf of consumers.

To Tutti Rudman, Honorary Treasurer, for keeping a close eye on SANCU’s finances and making sure that we deal with all expenses in a responsible manner.

Clif Johnston, Vice Chair, thank you for always being prepared to chair meetings if necessary.  Your excellent reporting on sometimes very difficult and technical matters is amazing.  You make it easy for laymen in Exco to understand.

Ann Goslin, our Executive Officer, you once again amazed us all by the way you managed the office, even while you were in ICU and later when you were hospitalised again.  Your perseverance, even under difficult circumstances, in solving problems on behalf of consumers is greatly appreciated.  We realise that you often put in extra hours and we can only say a big thank you for your dedication!

Our Affiliate, Associate and Private members, we thank you for your continued support and for attending our meetings.  As mentioned in previous General Meetings I would appreciate interaction with you at our meetings as this is the only opportunity to directly engage with you.

I hereby present my report for the period 1 September 2017 to 31 August 2018 for adoption.

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