The Consumer Goods and Services Ombud (CGSO) has unveiled its annual report for the year ending February 2023, shedding light on the businesses and services that drew the most consumer complaints.
Background and Mandate
The report’s release aligns with clause 9.2.11 of the Consumer Goods and Services Industry Code of Conduct (CGSI Code), which was instituted by the Minister of Trade and Industry on 29 April 2015. The primary role of the Ombud is to mediate conflicts between consumers and suppliers within the South African goods and services sector, ensuring adherence to the CGSI Code.
CGSO Key Findings
The CGSO reported a total of 10,562 complaints for the period, marking a decrease from the 11,834 cases recorded in the preceding year. Out of the current year’s complaints, 2,044 were outside the CGSO’s purview and were subsequently directed to other Ombud offices, regulators, and sector-specific alternate dispute resolution bodies.
This decline in complaints is attributed to the normalization of trading conditions reminiscent of the pre-pandemic era, coupled with a reduction in the abrupt cancellations of holidays and events. The report elucidated,
“For the last two years, a sizeable portion of complaints followed the switch to online shopping. While vendors struggled initially to keep pace with the surge in e-commerce, many have since refined their systems and improved on-time delivery, resulting in fewer complaints.”
Interestingly, despite the reduction in complaints, the CGSO managed to recover R12.9 million for consumers. This figure represents a 12.5% increase from the R11.5 million reimbursed to consumers in the prior reporting cycle.
Consumer Alerts Issued
A concerning trend emerged as the CGSO noted repeated unresolved complaints against certain online retailers. The persistent non-cooperation of these retailers with the CGSO led to consumer alerts being issued against four online entities. These businesses were flagged for accepting payments but subsequently failing or outright refusing to deliver the promised goods or services.
Consumers are advised to tread carefully when engaging with the following businesses:
PC Link – A supplier and dealer specializing in computer and office accessories.
Online at Liepies – An online clothing retailer.
Sassy Heels – A purveyor of women’s footwear.
The Reliable Store – An online marketplace offering electronics, smartwatches, projectors, and health and fitness products.
The report underscores the growing traction of e-commerce, which accounted for 34% of all sector-specific complaints, a noticeable increase from the 25% recorded in FY2021/22. The data further revealed that online transactions, appliance manufacturers and retailers, and satellite and communications were responsible for 63% of all consumer grievances lodged with the office. A staggering 94% of all complaints in 2022/23 pertained to goods, services, and agreements.