CPA complaints require good record keeping

The hundreds of complaints received by the National Consumer Commission (NCC) in the first two weeks following the introduction of the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) on April 1 has highlighted the importance for businesses to ensure that they have effective records management systems in place.

Richard Buttle, CFO at Metrofile, the JSE listed information and records storage management business, said that the implementation of the CPA had created an increased awareness among consumers of their rights and businesses need to prepare themselves for the potential onslaught of returns and cancellations of contracts.

“Records management must be a top priority to ensure sales and contract records and supporting documentation are easily accessible and securely stored at all times. Ineffective records management could result in a loss of productivity, reputational damage, legislative ramifications and ultimately financial losses,” said Buttle.

He added that daily claims would require a speedy response from a reputation and productivity management perspective.

“Businesses need to implement a robust process for collating documents, storing records both locally and offsite and archiving records in a managed structure so they can retrieve the records timeously and resolve consumers’ queries quickly and efficiently.”

Buttle advised that while all industry sectors would be heavily affected by the regulations of the CPA, it was likely that cellular companies, banks and retailers would experience the biggest impact due to their large client bases.

He said while corporate organisations were more likely to have an effective records management system in place due to previously implemented business continuity and backup plans, the small-to-medium businesses need to be more vigilant when it comes to records management.

“Documents such as sales records, warranties, service level agreements and contracts opened between the business and consumer should be safely stored and easily accessible. Businesses should even document any advice given as evidence that recommendations were given to the consumer should they complain on a basis that insufficient information was provided at the time of the sale.”

He added that businesses also need to protect themselves against potential false claims which could lead to financial losses.

“For example, an effective records management system will aid businesses to identify whether a claim is legitimate, so as to ensure that they are not taking back goods that were not originally bought from their particular business.

“The rights of consumers are firmly in the spotlight at the moment and companies need to ensure they are prepared from a records management perspective to avoid complaints hampering business in anyway, concluded Buttle.—I-Net Bridge

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