NCC upholds e-tag complaints

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The South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) has backed down on 16 of its e-tag terms and conditions.

This comes after the National Consumer Commission (NCC) upheld complaints by the Democratic Alliance (DA).

DA Gauteng transport spokesperson Neil Campbell says the changing of these terms occurred as the result of a conciliation meeting held on 11 April. The NCC sent a letter to the DA this month, upholding its complaints.

Sanral arrogance

“While most of the complaints have now been addressed by Sanral in their new terms and conditions, two points which still give rise to concern have been forwarded to the National Department of Transport for their input.”

These points are that the seven-day grace period given to pay e-toll tariffs and top up depleted accounts could increase consumer indebtedness, says Campbell.

He explains that transport minister Sibusiso Ndebele made this decision and so only he can change it.

The second problem is that a driver becomes a “criminal” under the Sanral Act by not paying tolls within seven days. “[This] is considered unfair, but only the minister can change this clause as it is part of the Sanral Act.”

Campbell also says the NCC is still awaiting clarification from Sanral regarding its status as a deposit-taking organisation.

“The other 16 points raised by the DA have resulted in changes to the terms and conditions of the Sanral contract, all of which benefit motorists and highlight the completely unfair and one-sided nature of the original contract.

“Sanral's arrogance and disregard of the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) has been exposed, and we are pleased that they have been forced to backtrack by the NCC. This is a victory for the consumer. It would be even better if tolling was scrapped altogether.”

Addressing concerns

The agency previously provided some examples of how the terms and conditions were changed in order to address the concerns raised.

There was a concern that the terms and conditions do not comply with the CPA. “We have put in a clause to state that the terms and conditions only apply as far as allowed by the law, including as far as allowed by the Consumer Protection Act.”

Another concern was that Sanral could change the agreement and users were forced to agree with the changes.

The new clauses now make it clear that this is not so. Users can end the agreement immediately or at any time after being told about changes. “Even if we do not make changes, you can still end the agreement at any time,” says Sanral.

“This clause was also changed after taking account of the suggestions from the National Consumer Commission.

“There was also a concern that you have to prove that amounts we charge you are wrong. We have removed the clause that caused this concern.”

In January, several parties, including the SA National Consumer Union, said the terms and conditions linked to the e-toll contract, when users register for e-tags, are unlawful and violate the Financial Services Act and the CPA, which protects consumers from unfair, unreasonable and unjust practices.

In February, NCC commissioner Mamodupi Mohlala told ITWeb that the terms and conditions in the contract are “contrary to the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act”.

Corruption links

Public protector Thuli Madonsela is conducting a preliminary investigation into complaints of allegations of tender irregularities and improper relationship linking the company that won the e-toll system tender with the arms deal company.

“This followed the complaints lodged by DA Member of Parliament, Jack Bloom; director for the Institute for Accountability in SA, Adv Paul Hoffman; and the recently resigned CEO of Sanral, Nazir Alli,” says spokesperson for the public protector, Kgalalelo Masibi.

Madonsela will determine whether the allegations merit a formal investigation.

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