ANELICH CONSULTING

 CANNED PILCHARD RECALL

 Posted 25 February 2020

There is a current recall being conducted at consumer level of certain varieties of canned pilchards manufactured by West Point Processors in South Africa.  It is important for consumers to return the particular products as defined by the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications (NRCS) in South Africa, to the store where they were purchased.

It appears that some cans were damaged during filling.  Such damage can cause microscopic holes (also called pinholes) in the cans, which can hold a potentially serious food safety risk.  Canned pilchards as for other canned fish, are regarded as low-acid canned goods.  This means that processing is focussed specifically on eliminating the microorganism Clostridium botulinum, which is associated with low-acid canned products if not treated properly.  This organism produces the toxin botulin and when ingested causes the disease called botulism.  When a can is damaged even after proper processing, this bacterium can enter the can through such pinholes from the external environment and produce the toxin, which can cause severe illness.

Foodborne botulism is extremely rare, but can be severe when contracted.  Symptoms are:

  • Difficulty swallowing or speaking.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Facial weakness on both sides of the face.
  • Blurred or double vision.
  • Drooping eyelids.
  • Trouble breathing.
  • Nausea, vomiting and abdominal cramps.

Signs and symptoms of foodborne botulism typically begin between 12 and 36 hours after the toxin gets into your body. But, depending on how much toxin was consumed, the start of symptoms may range from a few hours (as little as 6 hours) to a few days, sometimes only after 10 days.

Receiving proper treatment as early as possible is vital. With proper treatment, one can fully recover from botulism.  However, if not treated, botulism can be life-threatening.  People receiving treatment recover in about 90% to 95% of cases, whereas it can be fatal to those not treated in 40% to 50% of cases.

Copyrighted 2020 Prof LE Anelich

https://www.anelichconsulting.co.za/food-safety/current-canned-pilchard-recall/


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MEDIA RELEASE DATE: 24 February 2020

TO: ALL NEWS EDITORS AND JOURNALISTS

RE: NRCS ORDERS FOR A NATIONAL RECALL OF CANNED PILCHARDS

The National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications has ordered all formal Wholesalers, Retailers and informal Traders to remove and stop selling the 400g Pilchards in Tomato Sauce and 400g Pilchards in Chili Sauce with immediate effect. This follows the outcome of the investigation which the organisation conducted that revealed a deficiency in the canning process. Some of the cans were comprised during the sauce filling step on the production line therefore could affect the safety of consumers.

The problem manifests itself after months of storage which cause the content of the can to react with the metal of the can. The affected products were manufactured in 2019 by West Point Processors based in Cape Town and have been distributed nationally to various retailers across the country.

Below are the details of the product brands affected and the NRCS wishes to implore all consumers to return the products to any shop where they were purchased for a refund:

DEEP CATCH · MAMMAS · OK HOUSEBRAND · PRIME OCEAN · SPAR · SUNNY · SHOPRITE RITEBRAND · CAPE POINT · CHECKERS HOUSEBRAND · U BRAND · SALDANHA · WEST POINT
The products further bear the markings starting with - ZST29 and ZSC29 on top of the can for easy identification.

Food safety is a priority for NRCS and therefore the organisation is engaging all role players to ensure that the affected products are removed from the market to protect consumers against unsafe products in line with its mandate.

The manufacturer has already started the recall and the NRCS will continue to monitor the process with all the other wholesalers and retailers including the informal market to ensure that the process is handled efficiently.

The NRCS regulates the Manufacture, Production and treatment of Canned fish and fishery products as part of the Compulsory Specifications (VC8014). All canned Fish and fishery products that are manufactured in the Republic of South Africa are inspected and released by NRCS for trade according to regulatory protocols.

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11.2.2020

CREDIT OMBUD PRESS RELEASE

URGENT PRESS RELEASE

MEDIA RELEASE
DATE: 24 February 2020
TO: ALL NEWS EDITORS AND JOURNALISTS
RE: NRCS ORDERS FOR A NATIONAL RECALL OF CANNED PILCHARDS

The National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications has ordered all formal
Wholesalers, Retailers and informal Traders to remove and stop selling the 400g

Pilchards in Tomato Sauce and 400g Pilchards in Chili Sauce with immediate
effect. This follows the outcome of the investigation which the organisation conducted that revealed a deficiency in the canning process. Some of the cans were comprised during the sauce filling step on the production line therefore could affect the safety of consumers.

The problem manifests itself after months of storage which cause the content of the can to react with the metal of the can.

The affected products were manufactured in 2019 by West Point Processors
based in Cape Town and have been distributed nationally to various retailers across the country.

Below are the details of the product brands affected and the NRCS wishes to
implore all consumers to return the products to any shop where they were
purchased for a refund:

 DEEP CATCH
 MAMMAS
 OK HOUSEBRAND
 PRIME OCEAN
 SPAR
 SUNNY
 SHOPRITE RITEBRAND
 CAPE POINT
 CHECKERS HOUSEBRAND
 U BRAND
 SALDANHA
 WEST POINT

The products further bear the markings starting with - ZST29 and ZSC29 on top of the can for easy identification.

Food safety is a priority for NRCS and therefore the organisation is engaging all role players to ensure that the affected products are removed from the market to protect consumers against unsafe products in line with its mandate. The manufacturer has already started the recall and the NRCS will continue to monitor the process with all the other wholesalers and retailers including the informal market to ensure that the process is handled efficiently.

The NRCS regulates the Manufacture, Production and treatment of Canned fish
and fishery products as part of the Compulsory Specifications (VC8014).
All canned Fish and fishery products that are manufactured in the Republic of South Africa are inspected and released by NRCS for trade according to
regulatory protocols.
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The Credit Ombud – In the business of restoring broken relationships

The Credit Ombud office provides FREE assistance with all credit bureau and credit agreement related matters.

  • Overcharging of interest or fees
  • Prescription of debt
  • Reckless lending
  • Debt collection issues
  • Fraud
  • Emolument attachment orders/Garnishee orders
  • Unfairly or incorrectly listed at the credit bureau (judgments, defaults, etc.)

We would all love to be in the perfect relationship, where you and your partner agree about everything and get along without any quarrelling and complaints or fighting. The truth is the “perfect” relationship only exists when there is continuous and honest communication from both parties involved. But now, what happens when there’s a misunderstanding and both parties are unable to reach an agreement? When the initial agreement between the two of you becomes a little blurred due to, either miscommunication or misunderstanding, that’s when you consult a professional/specialist, someone who will be fair, independent and honest.

The Credit Ombud is the specialist you need when those misunderstandings with your credit grantor or credit bureau occur. Whether it’s a judgment listing at the credit bureau or a prescribed debt or even an emolument attachment order (garnishee order) which you need assistance with, we are there to help.

When do you know that there’s a problem in your relationship with your credit grantor or credit bureau?

  • Upon making a credit application, you are already agreeing that the credit grantor may access your credit profile as part of the affordability assessment, to establish the type of consumer you are.
  • Once your credit application is approved, as part of the agreement you agree that the credit grantor may upload your activity regarding their account on your credit profile. Which means that should you default on that account, that information will be uploaded onto your credit profile. The default listing will only be removed once your account is either paid up or after the retention period of 1 year. However, if it happens that you get listed incorrectly or in error with a default, or judgment, etc. you may contact the credit bureau to dispute the information. After the credit bureau has done their investigation and you are not happy with their outcome, provided that you have given them the 20 working days to investigate and have obtained a credit bureau reference number, you may contact the office of the Credit Ombud for further assistance.
  • Further to that agreement, the credit grantor has the responsibility of supplying you with monthly statements so that you may track your payments. Should you find that, although you’ve been making your regular monthly payments, you are being overcharged on interest and fees, you may dispute the information with your credit grantor for them to investigate. If you aren’t happy with their outcome, you may approach the office of the Credit Ombud for assistance.
  • There are instances when a consumer will find themselves already being listed due to non-payment of the account, and further receive an emolument attachment order (garnishee order). The office of the Credit Ombud will assist in ensuring that the correct interest and fees are being charged and that the consumer isn’t overcharged or treated unfairly.
  • Once the consumer has logged their dispute with the office of the Credit Ombud, we will start our investigation by contacting the credit grantor which the complaint is against, so that we can obtain all the necessary supporting documents and information pertaining to the consumers query.

We will act in the best interest of all parties, taking both sides into consideration and considering the merits of each case carefully. – FAIR

We will not take sides and will remain impartial at all times. No individual or organization will be in a position to unduly influence us.INDEPENDENT

We will openly deal with any issue brought before us, asking the relevant questions and communicating clearly and transparently. – HONEST

At the end of our investigation, the objective is that both the consumer and the credit grantor be treated fairly and can reach an agreement which should be satisfactory to both parties.

The Office of the Credit Ombud resolves complaints from consumers and businesses that are negatively impacted by credit bureau information or when a consumer has a dispute with a credit provider. At all times we will act honestly, independently and fairly, balancing the rights of all parties.

Consumers can contact the office of the Credit Ombud for FREE assistance if they experience any issues relating to credit agreements with non-bank credit providers such as the clothing and furniture retailers as well as micro-lenders, fraudulent listings, emolument attachment orders (“garnishee orders”) or general complaints about their credit bureau listings. The office can be contacted on 0861 66 28 37; on the website www.creditombud.org.za; email us at ombud@creditombud.org.za or send a sms to 44786 and we will call you.


ANELICH CONSULTING

30 January 2020

ANELICH CONSULTING

CORONA VIRUS

Prof Lucia Anelich

I have received numerous queries on the “novel coronavirus” that is causing the current outbreak in China, which is now spreading to other countries. The main question asked is whether it is transmitted via food to humans. Below is a brief background to the virus and my view (summary) after consulting some reputable websites as well as my extensive network of international colleagues. I have kept it short for ease of reading, but you are welcome to contact me, should you require more detailed information. Please note that this information is copyrighted to Anelich Consulting; this excludes sources referred to specifically. You are welcome to distribute this communique only in its original form to others.

Question: What are corona viruses?

Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large group of viruses that are common in many different species of animals. They cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). The common cold is something we are all familiar with – this is often caused by what is termed “common human coronaviruses” of which there are many strains. A few MERS cases continue to occur, mainly in the Arabian Peninsula, whilst no human SARS cases have been reported since 2004 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – CDC https://www.cdc.gov/; World Health Organization – WHO https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019).

The current virus that was reported on 31 December 2019 for the first time by China, is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans. It is been given the name “novel coronavirus” or “2019-nCoV” (WHO).

Question: What are the symptoms of infection?

Common signs are respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath, and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death (WHO). The incubation period seems to be 2-14 days (CDC); this is why expats returning to home countries are monitored or quarantined for at least 14 days.

Question: Can the 2019-nCoV be transmitted via food?

The simple answer is that we do not have clear evidence that the 2019-nCoV is transmitted via food and we do not have answers yet on the behaviour of the 2019-nCoV and effective kill treatments in the “food space”. Despite this, there are general precautions provided by the WHO to avoid contact with diseased animals, wash hands well after handling raw meat etc, which remains good advice in any setting, not only related to coronaviruses.

Page 2 of 2

The best that we can do currently is use information that we have regarding closely related viruses i.e. MERS and SARS viruses. Whilst we cannot say that the 2019-nCoV will react in exactly the same way, it does give us an indication of what we may be dealing with.

MERS: Data has shown that the MERS virus can be transmitted via consumption of raw camel milk. However, we do know that raw milk from animals is a high risk product as it may contain many other microbes that can cause disease in humans when ingested; hence pasteurization of milk to render it safe for human consumption.

SARS: The SARS virus is killed by thermal processing at 60° for 30 min. Another study on survival of SARS particles on dry surfaces, showed a 5-6 log decrease in 9 days at room temperature.

There are clearly many unanswered questions, but the current belief is that the greatest risk is person-to-person infection, not infection via food. This means that in a food processing environment, one ill person can transmit the infection to co-workers via bad hygiene practices (including coughing, sneezing, spitting etc). When person-to-person spread has occurred with MERS and SARS, it is thought to have happened mainly via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza and other respiratory pathogens spread. Spread of SARS and MERS between people has generally occurred between close contacts.

Another question that has arisen is whether there is potential carriage of the virus to humans via bio-aerosols from raw food, but currently, there is little evidence of this as well. Implementation of Good Hygiene Practices, particularly regular hand washing and where necessary, hand sanitizing remain key prevention measures.

FINALLY……

I am keeping a close eye on any developments related to transmission of the 2019-nCoV via food and shall inform you accordingly.

Training course on food microbiology: There are many microorganisms associated with a variety of foods, but the question that should be asked is whether they are in fact a risk to human health and under which circumstances. My course takes a risk-based, as opposed to a hazard-based approach and looks at what is realistically a risk to humans associated with different food products.

Training course on developing appropriate microbiological criteria: Another extremely popular course is on developing appropriate microbiological criteria for your products. This course is based on statistically-validated sampling plans that would provide you with a greater level of confidence that you would find the pathogen if it were present in your product, at a low level of contamination. The training includes an assessment of how well your current sampling plan is performing (or not).

Retainer: A popular development in the past three years has been contracting me on a retainer basis. Contact me directly to discuss. Terms and Conditions apply.

THERE IS A AN FAQ ON PROFESSOR ANELICH’S  WEBSITE FOR CONSUMERS: www.anelichconsulting.co.za

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11 December 2019

PRESS RELEASE

 LOAD SHEDDING

The South African National Consumer Union (SANCU) is extremely concerned about the continued load shedding which has reached unprecedented levels lately.

It seems that Eskom is not in a position to alleviate the inconvenience and distress of especially consumers and small businesses who are not in a position to provide power for themselves through generators and/or other means. However, there are Independent Power Producers that can be brought into the system to add to the supply of power. It is believed that applications from these IPP’s to enter the system have already been submitted to the relevant Government Department, but have not yet been finalised. SANCU urges Government to urgently intervene in this matter in order to increase the availability of power.

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CREDIT OMBUD

3 December 2019

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Bittersweet festive – responsible ‘splurging’

Finance Minister, Tito Mboweni delivered the 2019 medium-term budget speech, which left a bit of a bitter taste in our mouths. However as bitter as it may have been, it is the truth we needed to face in order to make the necessary changes in our daily lives and adapt to new ways of spending.

We are a nation that loves life and everything good which comes with it. We spend, and unfortunately at times even to our own detriment as we spend more than we earn, which is one of the points our Finance Minister continues to emphasize. How then do we enjoy life, especially during the festive season without having to overspend and find ourselves in the usual corner of ‘Janu Avenue and Worry Street’?

Throughout the year we have been working hard and it is during this time that we want to enjoy ourselves with our families without having to worry about our bank balances. This is when we start planning, which we aren’t crazy about because it is after all the festive season, we only want to have fun with no worries. To ease yourself into the festive season, set out a ‘splurging plan’ (the word ‘budget’ seems to intimidate a lot of us). Open a savings account where you could transfer some of your funds into, to either use for your splurging or to save for January. Getting into the new year debt free is something we should aim at. It alleviates the stress of the January responsibilities, therefore use your bonus/thirteenth cheque to set yourself free from the chains of debt. Don’t allow your debt to put so much of fear in you that you are too scared to scrutinize all your statements and credit reports. The same initiative you took to apply for that credit, take that same initiative to stay on top of your credit life and don’t let anything fall through the cracks.

When does the Credit Ombud help?

Should your statement of account contain any information which you would like to dispute, you may approach your credit provider and lodge your dispute with them. You will then allow them 20 working days to investigate and after the 20 working days, should you get no response or aren’t satisfied with their outcome, you may contact the Credit Ombud to log your dispute. Remember to obtain a reference number from the credit provider. A similar process applies when logging a dispute at the credit bureaux. Once you have obtained your credit report and find that there is information which you would like to dispute, you may contact the credit bureaux and request to log a dispute. Upon logging your dispute, the bureaux will provide you with a reference number.  Allow them 20 working days to investigate your dispute. After the 20 working days, should you not have received any feedback from them or you aren’t satisfied with their outcome, you may contact the Credit Ombud to log your dispute.

The Credit Ombud advises that you set time aside for yourself, where you focus on your finances and to fix what needs to be fixed, as taking care of your finances is also part of self-care. Take charge, be in control and steer your finances in the direction that will allow you to build a future for yourself. Your income should be a steppingstone to a better life, so make those tough but necessary decisions and be disciplined.

‘Money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver.’ – Ayn Rand

Consumers can contact the office of the Credit Ombud for FREE assistance if they experience any issues relating to credit agreements with non-bank credit providers such as the clothing and furniture retailers as well as micro-lenders, fraudulent listings, emolument attachment orders (“garnishee orders”) or general complaints about their credit bureaux listings. The office can be contacted on 0861 66 28 37; on the website www.creditombud.org.za; email us at ombud@creditombud.org.za or send a sms to 44786 and we will call you.

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CREDIT OMBUD’S OFFICE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 25.11.2019

Watch out for the Black Friday Blacklist!

We have all been receiving the emails. We’ve added to our ‘Wishlist’ and even have first preference on all ‘early bird’ specials, just so we don’t miss out on all the wonderful Black Friday specials.  Even if we want to avoid the ‘Black Friday’ euphoria, it is hardly a frenzy that we can ignore.

During ‘Black Friday season’ we are already in the festive mood and are likely to increase our spending. Statistics from the National Credit Regulator (Consumer Credit Market Report) show that for the quarter ended June 2019, credit facilities which consist mainly of credit cards, store cards and bank overdrafts increased from R20.26 billion to R21.11 billion (a quarter on quarter increase of 4.1%) while in December 2018 (a quarter-on-quarter increase of 15.00%).  This further indicates that as consumers, we are likely to increase our usage on credit facilities during this time of the year. We should not forget other obligations, such as back to school expenses, and other expenses that normally come with the new year. We should be proactive and not find ourselves being in the usual corner of ‘Janu Avenue and Worry Street’.

The office of the Credit Ombud advises that as consumers we should rather plan our expenditure prudently and make provision for the expected and often times, unexpected increase in expenses for the new year, as this will assist in avoiding default and the negative consequences of being ‘blacklisted’ at the credit bureaux. While looking out for good deals we should also be on the lookout for deals which might lead us to long-term credit depression. Using credit on Black Friday spending, should be the last resort, rather have a budget and be disciplined. Be money-savvy in the run-up to Black Friday; we should check our credit profiles, understand our spending limitations and prepare to walk away from a deal that is unnecessary.

Should you have failed to make a budget and have no other alternative or see the need to purchase using credit, keep your monthly obligation according to your credit agreement and pay your monthly installment. If you are able to pay a bit more, this will help to pay off the debt faster.

Consumers can contact the office of the Credit Ombud for FREE assistance if they experience any issues relating to credit agreements with non-bank credit providers such as the clothing and furniture retailers as well as micro-lenders, fraudulent listings, emolument attachment orders (“garnishee orders”) or general complaints about their credit bureaux listings. The office can be contacted on 0861 66 28 37; on the website www.creditombud.org.za; email us at ombud@creditombud.org.za or send a sms to 44786 and we will call you.

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PRESS RELEASE    2.7.2019

CONSUMERS WELCOME HIGH COURT RULING IN FAVOUR OF CREDIT REGULATOR

The South African National Consumer Union (SANCU) welcomes the Johannesburg High Court ruling in favour of the National Credit Regulator which now prevents banks from transferring funds deposited into consumers' accounts to settle debts on credit agreements without the consumers' authorisation.  SANCU also applauds the Credit Regulator for bringing this application to the High Court.

While this ruling only applies to credit agreements subject to the National Credit Act, SANCU believes banks have a duty of care to their customers not to take any unilateral action with regard to the money entrusted to them without the customers' explicit authorisation.  That used to be the case decades ago when banks took their responsibility to consumers more seriously.  Nowadays with widespread banking fraud, for which the consumer is somehow held to have been negligent most of the time, consumers are beginning to wonder all over again whether their money would be safer if kept under the mattress.  The recent fraudulent debit order epidemic could have been avoided had banks listened to consumers when SANCU raised the issue with them some 9 years ago.  At the time SANCU recommended a pre-approval process with the consumer's own bank before a debit order could be accepted.  Only now, after huge losses to both banks and consumers, is such a process slowly being put into place.  The consequent loss of trust in the banking system may well be the reason why so many consumers are migrating to the newer, cheaper banks which have simpler, less vulnerable systems.

Issued by Dr Clif Johnston  : Vice Chairman

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PRESS RELEASE
11.3.2019

CELL C USERS WILL CONTINUE TO INCUR OUT-OF-BUNDLE DATA CHARGES BY DEFAULT UNDER NEW REGULATIONS

The South African National Consumer Union (SANCU) advises all Cell C users to set a zero cap on their Spend Control service if they wish to avoid out-of-bundle charges when their data bundles expire.  ICASA’s new End-User Service and Subscriber Charter regulations initially stated that charges may not be made for out-of-bundle data unless the customer has explicitly opted-in for such charges, which is how Vodacom, MTN and Telkom have currently implemented the charter according to tests carried out by MyBroadband and reported by them on 3 March. 

However, a last-minute change to the Charter also permits out-of-bundle charges to be made to customers who have not opted in for such charges, as long as the data is provided under the same terms and conditions as for the in-bundle data (which presumably means at the same tariff).  This is the option currently implemented by Cell C, as quoted by their spokesperson in the MyBroadband article.  While this avoids the "bill shock" that used to occur in networks with out-of-bundle tariffs much higher than the in-bundle rates, the extra charges can still come as a surprise to consumers who may be unaware that their data has run out.  SANCU would prefer Cell C to have taken the more consumer-centric approach of the other networks by disabling out-of-bundle charges by default, but fortunately it is not difficult to select this option.  Cell C customers who are not sure how to do this should contact the Cell C helpline at 135 from a Cell C phone or 083 135 from any other phone.


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PRESS RELEASE
6.3.2019

SUGAR TAX – A BURDEN ON EVERYONE EXCEPT THE STATE

Recent reports of imminent job losses in the beverage industry as a result of the sugar tax provide further evidence that this measure was ill-conceived and badly implemented.  SANCU observed in November that the only impact of this tax at consumer level has been to increase the prices of all soft drinks across the board and/or to reduce the sizes of the bottles or cans in which they are sold.  SANCU showed then that apart from a few isolated cases soon after the tax was introduced, there had been no consistent price reduction for sugar-free soft drinks, even within the same brand.  In some cases the low-sugar or sugar-free version was actually more expensive.  This trend has continued, and in many outlets the low-sugar and sugar-free variants are simply not stocked any longer.

Dr Clif Johnston Vice-Chairman of the South African National Consumer Union stated "The sugar tax has clearly failed to create a preference for low-sugar beverages among consumers.  All it has achieved is a depressed market and increased tax revenue.  If some of the tax collected had been ring-fenced for consumer education and market monitoring things might have been different.  Industry responds to increased costs, such as a sugar tax, in ways best judged to retain profitability and this does not necessarily accord with the intention of the tax." 

SANCU believes that the introduction of taxes like the sugar tax needs to be considered far more carefully in future, and steps put in place to ensure that the intended outcome is achieved.  If it is not, then the tax should be scrapped."

Ends

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PRESS RELEASE

23.1.2019

Consumers laud Competition Tribunal's R20 million administrative penalty served on Computicket

The South African National Consumer Union (SANCU) is very pleased with the Competition Tribunal's finding that Computicket (Pty) Ltd abused its dominance in the marketplace.  SANCU is particularly happy that Computicket has been ordered to pay the very significant penalty of R20 million, though the total cost to consumers of this anti-competitive behaviour in the form of inflated ticket prices is likely to be much greater than this amount.  SANCU congratulates the Competition Commission and Tribunal on sending out a strong signal that such behaviour will not be tolerated.

The message to business is that anti-competitive behaviour will eventually lead to significant consequences, even if it takes a long time to get there (the case dates back to 2008).  Consumers can hope to see a more competitive environment, not only in the area of ticket sales, but also in a wider context as the message filters through to other businesses.

Businesses should be careful not to factor in such penalties as the cost of doing business.  In the USA that practice led to anti-competitive behaviour being classified as a criminal offence.  If the problem persists, SANCU sees no reason why the same cannot be applied locally, with compulsory jail time for repeat offenders, as the hidden cost to consumers of such behaviour can be huge.

Ends..................


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PRESS RELEASE  15.11.2018

SUGAR TAX – A PROFITABLE FAILURE FOR THE STATE

A recent statement that Treasury collected more sugar tax revenue than expected is further evidence that this tax has completely failed in its stated aim of promoting health by reducing the consumption of sugary drinks.  The only impact of this tax at consumer level has been to increase the prices of all soft drinks across the board and/or to reduce the quantities of the containers in which they are sold.  A quick survey by SANCU showed that apart from a few isolated cases soon after the tax was introduced, there is no consistent price reduction for sugar-free soft drinks, even from the same brand.  In some cases the low-sugar or sugar-free version is actually more expensive.  

Dr Clif Johnston Vice-Chairman of the South African National Consumer Union stated "Consumers can hardly be expected to favour low-sugar or sugar-free soft drinks under these conditions, which is why the sugar tax revenue is higher than expected.  The sugar tax has clearly failed in its stated aim, although Treasury is no doubt happy with the extra income." 

The Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, strongly supported the introduction of the sugar tax in order to combat obesity.  SANCU wonders what he feels about this outcome?

If best before dates confuse you, please listen to the podcast below.  David Watson - Chairman of Food Advisory Consumer Service explains "Best Before Dates"

http://www.capetalk.co.za/articles/316501/best-before-date-has-nothing-to-do-with-food-safety-expert



19 June 2018

SANCU WARNS AGAINST DEBT RELIEF SCAMS

The South African National Consumer Union is warning all consumers NOT to give their personal details, especially their bank account numbers to anybody over the phone. 

SANCU has once again been receiving complaints from consumers who have been ripped off by unscrupulous organisations offering easy debt relief.  These organisations request bank account details up front, and once they get this information they can freeze your bank account and take money out at will.  You cannot pay your accounts, as you are listed as being under debit review – even though there is no court order and no agreement in place with the debt administrator.  Once you are listed as being under debt review, you CANNOT open any other accounts or buy a house or car

Should you be contacted telephonically by a Debt Administrator or Counsellor offering to “lighten” your load by cutting down your monthly payments:  

*  ask to be sent full information outlining what the procedure is going to entail;  

*  check yourself if the organization is registered with the National Credit Regulator (ncr.org.za or 0860 627 627); 

*   do NOT give out any personal information, especially bank details, before receiving and carefully studying the documentation – if you don't understand it, ask a friend or someone independent; and 

*  do not give in to pressure tactics to agree to anything, either verbally or in writing – legitimate organisations will not pressure you to sign up, so take time to think carefully before committing to anything.


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Ombudsman for Short Term Insurance (OSTI)

Annual Report for 2017

OSTI did sterling work for consumers during 2017, among the figures feature in the report SANCU would like to highlight the following :

9 097 formal complaints were received
5 079 preliminary complaints received
9 962 complaints were closed
Amount recovered for consumers 87 101 354
Average turnaround time is 131 days for complaints
77 660 calls were received by the call centre.

Well done to the Ombudsman and her office.




 

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29 March 2018

PRESS RELEASE

CONSUMERS WARNED OF MAJOR PRICE HIKES DUE TO VAT INCREASE

The South African National Consumer Union (SANCU) is warning consumers to be on the lookout for opportunistic price hikes once the new VAT rate comes into effect on 1 April.  On the face of it, a 1% increase is not all that much: for example, an item costing R19,99 before the increase should rise to R20,19, but will it? "More likely it will increase to at least R20,99, or perhaps even to R24,99 as suppliers exploit the new VAT rate as an opportunity to raise prices" says Marie van der Merwe, acting Chair of SANCU,  "Consumers should be aware of these strategies and resist them as far as possible, by voting with their feet when they encounter excessive price increases".  If sufficient consumers resist, prices will return to a more reasonable level in time, even if only temporarily.  Eventually though, prices will inevitably rise towards the next multiple of 5 or 10 Rands, minus 1 cent.  "That's unfortunately the way the market works," says Marie, "and once again the poor are affected more than the affluent."  For example, a price rise from R99.99 to just below the next multiple of 5 at R104.99 amounts to a 5% increase, while the same increase from R19,99 to R24,99 is 25%.

SANCU advises consumers to shop around when they find excessive price increases, and to support those suppliers that keep their prices down. These will be easy to spot.  Where the new VAT is applied fairly there should be very few prices that end in .99c

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20 March 2018

PRESS RELEASE 

NETWORK DIALING CODES TO CHANGE

The South African National Consumer Union is alerting all consumers that the old dialling codes to access voicemail will fall away on 24 March and will be replaced by a standard number across all networks: 132.  Marie van der Merwe the Chairman of SANCU would like to remind all consumers that should they not be able to access their voicemail after that date they should try dialling this new number.  Most cellphones have a shortcut way of accessing voicemail, for example by pressing and holding "1."  When the user does this, the phone dials out a preset number, say 100 or 111, to access the voicemail service.  This preset number used to be different for different networks.  A regulation issued in 2016 standardised a number of service numbers across all networks, but the old numbers were permitted to remain in use for a period of two years.  That period expires on 24 March.

It is a simple process to update the preset number on a cellphone, but this process is not the same on all phones.  Consumers who find they can no longer access their voicemail by the usual means, should contact the customer care number of their network.  This number has also been standardised across all networks to 135.  There they should be able to obtain assistance on how to set their phone to access the new voicemail number.  Alternatively, their nearest cellphone shop should be able to do this for them.  In the meantime they can continue to access their voicemail by making a call to the new number: 132.

The standardised numbers now in use across all networks are as follows:

Voicemail retrieval: 132
Voicemail deposit: 134
Customer care/service: 135
Prepaid recharge and balance enquiry: 136
Account enquiries: 137

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WORLD CONSUMER RIGHTS DAY 15 MARCH 2018

SA CONSUMERS WANT FAIRER E-COMMERCE

In celebrating Consumer Rights Day on 15 March the South African National Consumer Union (SANCU) is calling for fairer e-commerce in the country. 

Firstly consumers need access to affordable and secure internet services.  For a very large number of South Africans mobile is the only secure way of accessing the internet and its cost remains too high for the majority, in spite of recent decreases.  Free Wi-Fi services and internet cafes are unsuitable for e-commerce transactions owing to the risk of hacking.  "Some e-commerce services, like banks, are beginning to offer cost-free mobile access to their services.  Perhaps this is the way of the future for local e-commerce," says Marie van der Merwe, Acting Chair of SANCU. 

Secondly, consumers need greater protection against online scams and fraud.  SANCU receives reports on an almost daily basis of fraudulent transactions that rob consumers of their money.  It is easy for financial institutions to warn consumers to be cautious when making online transactions, but scammers and hackers make use of ever more sophisticated techniques to lure even knowledgeable consumers into their clutches.  And sometimes money is taken from bank accounts without any negligence by the consumer, debit orders in particular. "Banks really need to take more responsibility when such things happen, instead of accusing consumers of negligence," says Marie, "After all, they have been promoting online services to all their customers without having the security to trace and reverse many fraudulent transactions (especially inter-bank transfers).  If banks were required by law to refund consumers in all such cases, they would quickly develop more secure systems."

Thirdly, "Online suppliers in South Africa need to improve their standard of service, particularly when it comes to non-delivery, returns and refunds," says Marie." Reputable online suppliers overseas do not debit the customer until the item has been despatched.  In South Africa, the reverse takes place; money must be paid upfront before the order is accepted."  Should stock not be available after accepting the order, it can take two weeks or more for a refund to be processed.  Suppliers usually blame banks for such delays, but if overseas suppliers can ensure refunds are received in South Africa within a day or two, it must be possible for local suppliers to do likewise.

SANCU believes that the reluctance of South Africans to make use of e-commerce relative to other countries is largely due to issues like these which need to be addressed urgently.

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Media Release

For Immediate Release                                                                                                      March 2018

Know your rights - Do not to pay any upfront fees when applying for loans

The National Credit Regulator (NCR) has embarked on a consumer rights month campaign in support of the World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD) which is on the 15th March annually. The international theme for 2018 is ‘making digital marketplaces fairer’, says Obed Tongoane, Deputy CEO at the NCR. 

In terms of the National Credit Act (NCA) as amended, all credit providers must register with the NCR before granting credit to consumers. It is rather sad that some credit providers or sometimes ‘fake’ credit providers who operate online cheat unsuspecting consumers of their hard earned money. This normally happens to consumers who are ‘blacklisted’ and cannot get credit from banks and other formal institutions. ‘Blacklisted’ is a term used by the general public to describe an adverse listing, judgment listing or an administration order listing on the consumer’s credit report at the credit bureau. In simple terms, it is a negative listing that will adversely affect a consumer when they apply for credit. 

Online scammers take advantage of such consumers (blacklisted) because they know that they have nowhere else to go. A fake credit provider is one that is not registered with the NCR, uses a legitimate credit provider’s registration number and the listed business premises on its website does not exist.

In line with the 2018 international theme, consumers should not make any upfront payment to credit providers when applying for a loan. It is unlawful for credit providers to charge consumers any upfront fees. An upfront fee is a payment that some credit providers charge consumers before granting them loans. “If you have paid an upfront fee to a fake credit provider, you need to open a criminal case with the South African Police Service”, says Tongoane. Consumers should be weary of this as most fake credit providers who operate online charge consumers this fee. Consumers will not be able to get their money back as most of these credit providers are fake and therefore, do not exist in the real world.

 “In terms of debt counselling, consumers should take note that debt counselling is not a savings mechanism as it is made out to be by some debt counsellors who promise consumers savings of up to 60% of their monthly instalments, says Tongoane. He says that it was never in the spirit of the NCA to make debt counselling a savings mechanism. It is rather a debt relief measure for over-indebted consumers so that they are able to pay all their credit providers with their current income and also be able to afford their living expenses such as food, transport, school fees etc. And most importantly, consumers will not lose their assets as long as they continue paying whilst under debt counselling.

Consumers who receive calls from debt counsellors and debt counselling companies promising them savings on their monthly instalments, breaks from their monthly instalments or anything that is too good to be true, should know that it probably is, adds Tongoane. Consumers should avoid giving those debt counsellors or their call centre agents their identity numbers and their banking details telephonically. “Remember, you cannot be placed under debt counselling without your consent and without an identity number”, says Tongoane. So, it will be difficult for debt counsellors to place consumers who do not want to be placed under debt counselling without their identity numbers and consent.

Consumers who feel that they have been placed under debt counselling without their consent should contact the National Credit Regulator for assistance. Remember your telephonic consent is after all a legitimate consent. Therefore, do not agree telephonically if you are not sure.

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5.3.2018

PRESS RELEASE

CONSEQUENCES OF LISTERIOSIS SHOULD BE DIRE, SAYS SANCU

The South African National Consumer Union (SANCU) is relieved that the source of the Listeriosis outbreak has finally been uncovered, and congratulates the Department of Health and the other institutions involved on their success in this difficult detective work.  SANCU also appreciates the firm and decisive remedial actions announced by the Department of Trade and Industry in conjunction with the National Consumer Commission (NCC).

The fact that the Listeria organism was still present in the factories that have now been shut down implies that they did not take effective measures to monitor thier own processes when the outbreak became public, months ago.  Had they done so, the organism would by now not have been present.  It is bad enough that major suppliers to the food market with high-profile brands could allow such lapses in health monitoring and controls in the first place, and unthinkable that they did not check and clean up their processes once the outbreak became known. SANCU urges the authorities to monitor the recall processes very carefully, as these lapses provide reasonable grounds not to trust the suppliers.

Once the recall has been concluded, there must be further consequences for those responsible.  These consequences should be dire, not so much to punish those involved, but to serve as an example that encourages all food suppliers to be meticulous in future in their hygiene processes and monitoring. The Consumer Protection Act makes provision for administrative fines of up to 10% of annual turnover to be imposed in the case of contraventions.  SANCU expects the National Consumer Commission to make cases to the National Consumer Tribunal for the imposition of the maximum administrative fines on those suppliers involved.  Not doing so will inevitably lead to suspicions of corruption.

The Consumer Protection Act also makes suppliers responsible for any harm caused by their products, and it provides for class actions on behalf of those affected.  These include not only the families of the 180 (so far) deceased, but also the approximately 500 who survived after treatment and who incurred medical costs and other losses as a consequence.  SANCU would love to institute such class actions, but as a very small NGO we lack the necessary resources.  However we are prepared to lend our support in kind to such an action instituted by any other civil society group.