The Consumer Goods and Services Ombud managed to get R11.5 million back for consumers and handled 13,946 complaints over the past year, with 25% of the complaints about online shopping.
According to the annual report of the ombud for the period ending 28 February 2022 that was released this week, goods, services and agreements accounted for 94% of all complaints received, while four consumer alerts were issued against companies that accepted payment but failed to deliver the goods or services.
The ombud’s office managed to close 60% of the complaints in favour of consumers. For the first time, the office also received complaints relating to the civil unrest in parts of Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal in July 2021.
These complaints included cases of goods that were left at a supplier for repairs and subsequently stolen during the looting, or where transport services were cancelled due to the violence and goods were not delivered or not delivered on time.
Although most of the complaints were about online shopping, the figure was a bit lower than the previous year when online shopping complaints made up 27% of the total. The office expects this trend to continue.
Consumers also complained about:
The e-commerce sector, together with the telecoms and satellite services sector (17.5%) and retailers and manufacturers of appliances (14%) and furniture (12%), continues to generate the most consumer complaints. Combined, these four sectors accounted for almost 70% of all complaints received by the ombud’s office.
Almost all of the complaints represent customer-service failures, such as goods not delivered on time, goods becoming defective within six months and poor customer service. Just under 50% of complaints were received from Gauteng, followed by the Western Cape at 18% and KwaZulu-Natal at 13%, with the remainder spread across the other six provinces.
After receiving numerous unresolved complaints against the same online retailers and continued lack of cooperation from them, the office issued consumer alerts for four online outfits for accepting payment from consumers and then failing or refusing to deliver the goods or services.
They were Mr Shopper, that sells furniture and electronics, Wiegenkind Boutique that sells baby and maternity wear, Ana Eleven Brand that sells women’s clothing and Liepies Online that sells women’s clothing, shoes and accessories.
Some consumers got big refunds
The R11.5 million recovered for consumers includes a refund to a customer who made an error with an online subscription payment and entered an incorrect amount, overpaying by R84,000.
Other high-value claims that were successfully refunded included R98,145 for an online purchase of specialised electronic equipment that the supplier was unable to source and R104,247.50 refunded to a client after the filters he ordered were not to specification.
“It is clear that the online shopping trend sparked by COVID is here to stay. While the scammers and fraudsters tend to make the headlines, I would like to commend the vast majority of online suppliers and all our participants who responded positively to rectify customer service failures and uphold the integrity of the sector,” says Magauta Mphahlele, the Ombud.