Media Release

For immediate release  :   National Credit Regulator                                                                                                                          January 2018                                                                           

Avoid over-indebtedness and borrow wisely

As we start the year, unfortunately the festive season left some consumers in a desperate situation when it comes to finances. There are many reasons why consumers need to borrow money at this time of the year, says Nomsa Motshegare, CEO at the National Credit Regulator (NCR).

“Regardless of the reason for borrowing, before consumers sign credit agreements, they need to understand the cost of credit and the terms and conditions of different credit agreements,” says Motshegare. The credit provider must give consumers a pre-agreement statement and quotation when seeking credit. These will outline the terms and conditions of the proposed agreement and all costs involved such as cost of credit, interest, service fees, initiation fees, credit insurance if there is any, deposit required if there is, number of instalments, date of first instalment, date of last instalment etc.

According to the National Credit Act (NCA), before credit providers extend credit to consumers, they are required to conduct an affordability assessment to assess the consumer’s general understanding and appreciation of the risks and costs of the proposed credit; the rights and obligations of a consumer under the credit agreement; debt repayment history as a consumer under credit agreements and the consumer’s existing financial means, prospects and obligations.

Consumers need to be truthful and honest when providing information at the point of application. This includes providing the correct amount for household expenses and not decreasing the amount in order to qualify for credit. By being truthful, consumers will be protected by the National Credit Act, but will lose the protection of the NCA if they give false information.

Consumers should enquire what interest rates they will be charged including all other charges that will be added before signing the credit agreement.  For example, when taking out an unsecured credit which consists mainly of personal loans, the credit provider can charge maximum interest of up to 27.75%. “However, as a consumer you can negotiate the interest when you get the pre-agreement statement and quotation. You can use these to shop around for better deals. Consumers are reminded to only borrow from a registered credit provider”, advises Motshegare.

Tips for borrowing wisely:

Borrow as little money as possible - Borrowing to fund your children’s education or a home loan can be a good thing, but borrowing for consumables such as groceries, to pay off other debt or to fund luxuries such as holidays or designer clothing can condemn you to a lifetime of debt.  Only borrow for what you really need. Plan the repayments before you apply for a credit card, clothing card, overdraft, personal loan or any form of credit. Also take into consideration the interest and other charges as well as how this will affect your ability to save. Avoid paying over too many months as it will cost you more in the end.

Signing - Never sign a blank credit agreement as you will not have control over other information that can be added after you signing

Card retention – Never leave your identity document, bank card, SASSA card or PIN with the credit provider.

Cooling off period – In terms of the NCA, a cooling off period only relates to credit agreements signed at the premises other than that of the credit provider. The cooling off period is valid for five business days. Often, credit agreements are signed at the credit provider’s premises. So, don’t sign until you are sure.

Credit insurance - If there is, familiarise yourself with the terms of the insurance to avoid surprises when you most need the insurance. It is advisable to take out credit insurance.

Create a monthly budget and stick to it - Work out how much income your family earns and what your total expenses are each month. Will you be able to pay for your new debt once you’ve covered all your expenses?  You should also plan for unexpected costs such as if one of your family members is retrenched.  Always keep receipts of your payments, as you might need these in the future.

Start saving consistently - Put aside at least 15% of your income every month in a safe investment. Save for your retirement as well. 

Pay your debts on time - Paying late or not paying the full instalment will adversely affect your credit rating and possibly your ability to take out credit in the future.  If you think you cannot meet your monthly instalments, contact your credit provider immediately and try to re-arrange payments. Do not wait until you skip payments.

Prioritise your home loan - You don’t want to lose your home.

Check your credit report regularly - This way you’ll be able to identify any errors and correct them.  Under the NCA, a credit bureau must provide you with one free copy of your credit report each year from each of the registered credit bureaus. Additional copies come at a cost.
Ends
Anelich Consulting   :   Food Safety Solutions  (http://anelichconsulting.co.za/index.php/faq)

Copyright 2017 Dr LE Anelich (reproduced with permission)

Published on 04 December 2017 –

What is Listeriosis?

Listeriosis refers to the invasive form of illness caused by the bacterium called Listeria monocytogenes.  This form of the illness is the more severe of two types of illnesses caused by this organism.  The other milder form presents with typical gastroenteritis symptoms i.e. fever and diarrhoea.  This latter form is usually not serious and most people heal quickly.  However, the invasive form is far more serious causing 20-25% mortality (deaths).

How does one contract Listeriosis?

The illness listeriosis is contracted when a person consumes food that is contaminated (infected) with sufficient levels of the organism Listeria monocytogenes.  An illness that is transmitted via food in this way is commonly known as a "foodborne illness" and the causal organism as a "foodborne pathogen".  Unfortunately, one will not know if the food is contaminated as the food appears, tastes and smells normal.

Who can contract Listeriosis?

Everyone can contract the illness, but there are persons who are at greater risk.  These are pregnant women and their foetuses, the elderly (over 65 years of age) and persons with weakened immune systems, for example, undernourished people, those who have had organ transplants, those with HIV/AIDS, diabetes, cancer and other autoimmune diseases.

How does Listeriosis affect pregnant women and unborn babies?

Pregnant women typically experience only fever and other flu-like symptoms, such as fatigue and muscle aches.  However, infections during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery or other life-threatening infection of the newborn, such as meningitis.

How does Listeriosis affect other vulnerable people?

Symptoms can include headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance and convulsions in addition to fever and muscle aches.  In Canada in 2008, elderly people in retirement homes were infected with listeriosis via contaminated deli meats and 22 people died.

How long does it take for symptoms to show?

Symptoms usually appear from 1-4 weeks after eating food contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. Some people have reported symptoms starting as late as 70 days after exposure or as early as the same day of exposure (although this is very rare).

Which foods are normally associated with Listeria monocytogenes?

Globally, the foods most often implicated in listeriosis are Ready-To-Eat (RTE) foods such as:
  • Ready-to-eat deli meats (ham, polonies, other similar cold meats) and hot dogs
  • Refrigerated pates or meat spreads
  • Unpasteurized (raw) milk and dairy products
  • Soft cheese made with unpasteurized milk, such as queso fresco, Feta, Brie, Camembert
  • Refrigerated smoked seafood
  • Pre-packaged salads
  • Raw sprouts
There have been cases attributed to fresh cut melons (cantaloupes) in the USA as well.

What can I do to prevent contracting Listeriosis?

Vulnerable sectors of the population (such as pregnant women and other groups mentioned above) should take special precautions:
  • Cook food thoroughly before eating it, especially all meats and fish
  • Do not drink unpasteurized (raw) milk
  • Consume only cheeses made from pasteurized milk
  • Practice good hygiene in the kitchen - wash hands and working surfaces thoroughly, especially between handling raw and cooked food - do not cross-contaminate
  • Avoid consuming any of the RTE foods mentioned above





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21 November 2017

PRESS RELEASE

SANCU has pleasure in announcing that Mrs Marie van der Merwe will take over as Acting Chairman of SANCU following the resignation of Ms Ina Wilken.  Marie has served on SANCU’s Executive Committee for 10 years, and will remain Acting Chairman until SANCU's next AGM in 2018.

Marie obtained the degrees B.Com (Law) and MBL at Unisa.

Before joining SANCU Marie managed the Business Practices Committee at the dti and was then promoted to the position of Director in the Chief Directorate: Regional Industrial Development, where she was appointed project manager for the Competitiveness Fund.  She also served on the Personnel Advisory Committee of the dti and was regularly requested to intervene and moderate personnel evaluation reports and assisted the dti with investigations in alleged misconduct by employees.  She conducted disciplinary hearings either as prosecutor or chairman.

Marie represents SANCU on i.a. Agricultural Trade Forum of DAFF, Impartiality Committee of the SABS, FACS (Food and Consumer Service Committee) SABS Technical Committee on Consumer Standards, Trustee of the Oil and Protein Seeds Development Trust, Trustee of the Winter Cereal Trust (member of the HR and Transformation Committees), the Wheat Forum Steering Committee, the Maize Forum, the Sorghum Forum, Director of Health Quality Assessment, Director of  SA Grain Information Services, member of the Credit Ombud Council, member of the Credit Ombud HR Committee and was recently appointed as a member of an Appeal Board at DAFF. Marie also served on the National Agricultural Marketing Committee from November for 6 years until May 2017, chairing their HR and Corporate Social Responsibility Committee as well. Marie is often sought after to attend events that have a bearing on consumers.

SANCU is pleased that Marie has accepted this appointment and we are confident she will contribute a great deal on behalf of consumers

Ends……..

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4 October 2017

PRESS RELEASE

SANCU WARNS CONSUMERS TO BE AWARE OF SELL-BY DATES ON MEAT

Consumers have become accustomed to sell-by dates on food products, especially fresh meat produce. This gives them a clear indication of the sell-by date under any stated storage conditions. This means the product will retain all specific qualities for which tacit or express claims have been made. The Consumer Protection Act No. 68 of 2008 Section 110 and the R146 under Act 54 of 1972 are very specific about this term used as well as the negation of re-labelling of a product as well as the cleaning or re-packing of food. There is as such no excuse for any retailer or butcher to tamper with labels that have expired and then re-labelling them. This is a direct violation of the Act and retailers and butcheries can be fined up to a R1 million or 10% of their annual turnover and can also face jail sentence.

Meat being one of the products that has a specific shelf life needs so much more to be taken care of. The dilemma consumers are faced with is the fact that law and enforcement is lacking and environmental health practitioners at Municipal level as well as the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the Department of Health should have picked this issue up long before Carte Blanche got involved.

When labels on meat products are altered consumers are misled and in good faith would buy these products which could also pose a health risk for them. Consumers have rights of which one of them is the right to information.  Consumers will decide whether they support retailers who are responsible for this kind of behaviour.  The time has come for Government and the Industry to see to it that consumers rights are respected and always be assured of safe food which inter alia includes safe meat products.

Ends.....




3 August 2017

BEWARE OF GREEN POTATOES IN THE SHOPS

The South African Consumer Union (SANCU) has received reports of green potatoes being sold in supermarkets.  Consumers are warned that a green or greenish colour indicates that the potatoes contain elevated levels of Solanine, which can be toxic, especially to young children and the elderly, when ingested in sufficient quantities.  Greening affects the skin and outer layers of the potato.  To be safe every trace of green should be peeled off before the potatoes are cooked.

Greening takes place over a number of days when potatoes are exposed to light.  This can happen at home or in the supermarket, especially when the potatoes are stored in transparent plastic bags.  The correct way to store potatoes is in a dark place, or in a thick paper bag like the bulk 10 kg and 7 kg pockets that keep out the light.  The transparent bags used for smaller quantities of potatoes in some supermarkets are quite safe as long as the stock is sold and used quickly.  One advantage of transparent bags is that the consumer can see any greening before making a purchase.  However, potatoes in opaque bags are far less likely to suffer from greening.

Some varieties of potatoes are more susceptible to greening than others, so it is not possible to provide general guidance on storage times.  The green colour is the best guide.

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15 May 2017

PRESS RELEASE

CONSUMERS CAN NOT BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR THE SABC MISHAPS

 Consumers in South Africa are becoming extremely despondent due to Government entities such as the SABC expecting consumers to foot the Bill due to their loss of R509 million during the past year, says Ina Wilken Chairperson of the South African National Consumer Union (SANCU).

This is a clear sign of financial mismanagement, loss of income due to less advertisements and programmes being repeated on a daily basis. This has got nothing to do with the man on the street.  To propose that consumers would have to pay for a TV licence when using a PC, Cell phone or tablet is totally outrageous. The SA consumer already pays taxes on everything and this will aggravate the dire financial situation they have been experiencing for a long time.  This idea is a far cry from our Constitution which very explicitly outlines consumers’ rights to basic needs. This will put the majority of consumers having to sell these very products that see to it that they get educated and informed

SANCU thinks the time is nigh for a total scrapping of TV licences as being unsustainable in the light of technology advances.

Ends

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11 April 2017 

PRESS RELEASE 

FOOD SAFETY INSPECTION – NECESSARY, BUT NOT TO THE COST OF CONSUMERS

The South African National Consumer Union has expressed concern at the cost implications of inspection services currently being introduced by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF).  SANCU realises that there is a need to exercise proper control over food safety and that DAFF must contract the work out to inspection agencies as it lacks internal resources.  However, some alarming reports have been surfacing about the cost of such inspections.  SANCU's Chairman Ms Ina Wilkin warned suppliers not to think they can simply pass this cost on to consumers. It must be absorbed as part of their existing cost structure.

The main problem is that the cost structure of these inspections, as presently defined, is open-ended.  Inspection agencies are appointed and then given the right to collect levies and inspection fees from the distributers without any defined limits on the number or duration of inspections.  A single commodity can even be inspected multiple times as it passes through the distribution chain, and charges raised for each inspection.  SANCU has heard estimates from suppliers that prices to consumers could rise substantially as a result.

SANCU is aware of assurances from DAFF that control measures will be put in place to ensure that inspections are targeted and controlled appropriately.  However details of such measures and estimates of the overall cost impact to consumers have not been provided by DAFF.  This is leading to market speculation.

SANCU appeals to DAFF not to introduce a half-baked inspection system on to the market.  Commercial interests can easily run away with costs if not properly controlled.  SANCU would like to support DAFF in this endeavour, but cannot do so on behalf of consumers until the results of a proper econometric study and cost-benefit analysis are made known together with details of formal control procedures.

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27 March 2017

PRESS RELEASE

RED MEAT FROM BRAZIL PROHIBITED FROM CERTAIN PRODUCERS

The South African National Consumer Union (SANCU) has been assured by the Red Meat Producers Organisation that South Africans are not to worry - the immediate steps taken by the Department of Agriculture more specifically the Directorate of Veterinary Services who with direct communication immediately prohibited the importation of red meat from certain producers in Brazil. Any other meat being imported from Brazil will be inspected rigorously. The RPO has always been on the forefront for safe and quality meat for consumers.

Ms Wiken, Chairperson of SANCU congratulates Mr Gerhard Schutte of RPO as well as the Directorate of Agriculture, Fisheries for their effective and immediate reaction to these very serious allegations in Brazil. Red meat is a basic food in all consumers’ households and consumers have a right to safe and quality food.

Competition Commission charges Unilever South Africa (Pty) Ltd for cartel conduct

3 March 2017

SANCU Chairman Ms Ina Wilken was interviewed on SAFM regarding the Competition Commission and Unilever.  Herewith an extract from the interview :

“SANCU would like to applaud the Competition Commission for the sterling they are doing and in this case persisted over a long period of time and got the results. This should be a warning to the Industry – consumers are protected by law which inter alia resulted to the Consumer Protection Act No 68 of 2008 which came into effect on the 1st April 2011.  The Act has a prohibition against any unconscionable conduct by a supplier against a consumer including one sided contracts and the use of duress or unfair tactics to conclude a transaction and most importantly prices which are unreasonable, unfair or unjust.

Price Fixing violates the rights of consumers by not giving the opportunity of an informed choice. Consumers’ rights are infringed when allegations of price fixing occur. If we look at the basic rights of consumers two rights are here infringed i.e. misleading the consumers and the right to choose. For consumers to make an informed choice about what products to buy they expect that the price has been determined freely on the basis of supply and demand, not by an agreement among competitors. When competitors agree to restrict competition the result is more than often higher prices.

A party found guilty under the Competition Act and fined 10% of their turnover, could face a class action claim from consumers for damages under the Consumer Protection Act as well as a further fine of 10% of turnover from the Consumer Tribunal.”

See the Competition Commission's media release.