Investigations by the National Credit Regulator (NCR) of South Africa have begun to turn the wheels of justice in citizens’ favour. A handful of large retail organisations were identified for charging club fees, in contravention of the National Credit Act. While findings are being appealed, it would appear that the NCR has its sights set on bringing justice for hundreds of thousands of customers who were unfairly charged.
In May 2017, one of South Africa’s largest non-food retailers were ordered to refund customers the sum of all illegal club fees which had been charged. Following that, another clothing and home store retail group has been referred to the National Consumer Tribunal for similar operations. This week a third retail group’s referral has been disclosed and South Africans are hopeful that their money will be ordered to be refunded.
Weighing heavily on the side of the victims, in this case, may be their average level of financial and credit acumen. While South Africa has experienced improvement in financial literacy, it has been slow and concentrated to metropolitan areas. The Tribunal is expected to weigh up the knowledge and intentions of the retailers against the knowledge and helplessness of consumers.
The third retailer hopes to appeal the referral with success; one such case had been dismissed previously, concerning furniture retailer ‘Lewis’ stores. Lewis had separated the club fee onto a statement of account, divided from regular credit accounts. The Tribunal had found that this particular modus operandum did not place the retailer into breach of the Act.
Further good news for consumers includes the NCR’s intention to investigate multiple industries for credit irregularities. Not only retailers stand in the firing line, this time, but banks, financial firms and educational institutions as well. South Africans may consider the NCR a cape-graced hero of their bank balances for months to come.