Consumer commission to hear e-toll complaints

Complaints about e-tolling will be taken up by the National Consumer Commission (NCC), but should not be the first line of complaint, commissioner Ebrahim Mohamed said on Monday.

"The NCC always encourages consumers to lodge complaints at the point of sale, and attempts to have their complaints dealt with there," he said.

If consumers were met with indifference or felt their complaints were not adequately addressed by the company or entity, they could then take the matter up with the NCC. "This does not preclude consumers from approaching the NCC [with their complaints]," Mohamed said.

The Democratic Alliance and the Freedom Front Plus recently announced that they would facilitate motorists' e-toll accounts complaints by submitting them to the NCC.

Mohamed said the commission would investigate the complaints, but had to do so within its constrained resources.

"It is our mandate to assist consumers, and we will.

"What we would do is set up a team to look at these complaints, and categorise them."

The NCC would then discuss the categories of problems identified with the South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) and look at ways of resolving the problems.

Greater powers
Mohamed said the NCC was not an adjudication body, and did not have the power to declare an account invalid. 

However, it could refer the matter to the Consumer Tribunal, which had greater powers in this regard.

On Monday, the Freedom Front Plus said it would lodge a complaint with the NCC about problems with e-toll accounts based on a number of problems Gauteng motorists had experienced with the system.

"These complaints form part of the party's continued opposition to toll roads … in its struggle against the abuse of the system by Sanral," FF Plus transport spokesperson Anton Alberts said in a statement.

So far, complaints included the incorrect breakdown of costs on e-toll accounts, accounts wrongfully issued to people who had not used the tolled roads, and the higher toll prices for motorists who chose not to get e-tags.

The FF Plus said it would launch a website later in the week to help people with e-toll complaints to submit them to the NCC.

The Democratic Alliance launched a similar initiative last week.

Sanral could not immediately be reached for comment.

Glitches
On January 10, Sanral spokesperson Vusi Mona reportedly conceded there had been some glitches in the e-toll collection system. 

However, he said there were not a large number of "genuine" complaints, and that those complaints lodged with the consumer satisfaction website, Hellopeter.com, were being handled by Sanral's public relations department.

"We are not breaking any laws or violating people's privacy," he said. Sanral has repeatedly urged Gauteng drivers to become registered for the system, as e-tag holders qualify for reduced e-toll fees. – Sapa

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