Trade, Industry and Competition Deputy Minister, Nomalungelo Gina, has warned consumers against the danger and negative impact of buying impulsively, saying it leads to over-indebtedness and dire socio-economic consequences.
Gina was delivering a keynote speech at the celebration of World Consumer Rights Day in the North West.
World Consumer Rights Day was marked globally on Wednesday under the theme, ‘Empowering Consumers through Clean Energy Transitions’.
South African regulators have, however, added another theme, ‘Creating a Fair Marketplace’, as a way of reaffirming their commitment to protecting South African consumers’.
According to the National Consumer Commission, which spearheaded the celebrations, the theme is a reminder to suppliers of goods and services of their responsibilities when marketing or providing goods and services, to ensure that they do so in a fair and just manner. The commission is an entity of the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition.
World Consumer Rights Day is celebrated across the world on 15 March to raise awareness of consumer rights and needs, highlighting that these should be respected and protected.
Gina emphasised the importance of educating consumers to be prudent when making choices to buy products and services.
“All the actors in this sector of consumer rights must scale up their education campaigns to inform both businesses and consumers about their rights and responsibilities when products are being marketed.
“We have a responsibility as consumer organisations to police the adherence to regulatory compliance by companies marketing and promoting product sales.”
Gina said there is a serious need to instil consciousness in consumers to scrutinise products and services before committing themselves financially.
“The biggest problem is consumers who decide to buy through emotions and excitement, and pay no attention to the fine print and quality inspections.
“These things tend to catch up with them as the consequences of emotional and impulsive buying, bad financial decisions, over-indebtedness and failure to service one’s debts.
“In addition, a bad credit score and the repossession of property by the banks have negative socio-economic impact on consumers, thereby plunging the entire family into difficulties. We must educate our people that debt is not always good,” Gina said.
She said it is imperative for consumer protection authorities to increase their efforts in educating consumers on what to look for before concluding a contract with the companies.
“This is important for consumers, as customers, to be cautious and pay attention to detail in order to inform themselves about the contents of contracts when making purchases, from big items such as buying properties through bonds and vehicle finance, to small items such as a contract with a mobile telephone company, and clothing store accounts or insurance.”
Gina said the high levels of unemployment, particularly amongst the youth and women, is making consumers vulnerable and susceptible to cheap and fake products sold to them by unscrupulous retailers.
Source: South African Government News Agency