National Consumer Tribunal briefing; Co-operatives Amendment Bills: public hearings Day 3

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Trade and Industry

26 July 2012
Chairperson: Ms J Fubbs (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Three co-operatives organisations made submissions to the Committee on the proposed amendments to the Co-operatives Amendment Bills.

The South African National Apex Co-operative (SANACO) recommended that the number of members required to form a secondary co-operative be increased from two to five, and that a single apex organisation should be created to ensure a coherent national body, recognised in the eyes of the law. It suggested that both the advisory council and the development agency should have a minimum of 60% of co-operative members, to ensure fair and appropriate resubmission of their interests. The introduction of co-operatives’ tribunals was strongly opposed, on the basis that they were likely to oppress co-operatives, and disputes needed to be settled between members themselves. The funding required for tribunals should rather be diverted to training and development so that the 80% failure rate among co-operatives could be adequately addressed. During discussion, members agreed on the need to make resources available for training, but felt the tribunal proposal should be retained.

The South African Women in Co-operatives were in broad agreement with SANACO’s suggestions on resubmission, but felt it was important that the advisory council appointed by the Minister should include at least 50% of co-operative members representing women, youth, people with disabilities and rural communities.
If a company wished to convert to a co-operative, there should be a minimum of five members, as some closed corporations had as few as one member, and it should not be permissible for a single person to form a co-operative.

The National Co-operative Federation of South Africa (NACOFSA) did not regard the proposed minimum number of five members required to form a primary co-operative, as sufficient. This would lead to dysfunctional management. It recommended that this number be increased to ten, as this would ensure a board could be constituted and adequate resources could be shared to ensure functional management. NACOFSA was working with the University of Fort Hare to create a national programme to deal with the mobilisation and education of co-operatives. This would be introduced initially in the Eastern Cape, with the objective of trying to reduce the failure rate from 80% to less than 50% in the next three years. More should be done to ensure that government entities, such as hospitals and prisons, provided supply opportunities to co-operatives, and precise legislation was needed to address this issue.

The Association of Certified Chartered Accountants pointed out that the Independent Regulatory Board for Auditors (IRBA) had been proposed as the only recognised body for the independent review of co-operatives. This had eliminated seven other bodies which were recognised for independent review in the Close Corporations Act of 1984 and the Companies Act of 2008 – as well as in nine other statutes. This meant that instead of 30 000 service providers being available to co-operatives, only IRBA’s 4 500 members would be available. This would pose a real predicament for co-operatives seeking people to produce reports on their financial statements, as all the other accounting and auditing bodies were currently allowed to perform this service. During discussion, it transpired that similar concerns had been raised by other auditing and accounting bodies.

At the request of the Committee, the National Consumer Tribunal provided a comprehensive review of its operations. Over the years, the tribunal had reached 90 decisions, and had been taken to court on appeal or review over only four matters, with only one being overturned. This related to South African Fraud Prevention Services, where the high court disagreed with the tribunal’s interpretation of what a credit bureau was.

It was necessary for the tribunal to improve its accessibility, as currently its only offices were in Centurion. It had entered into agreements with other consumer protection offices in the provinces in order to hold hearings around the country.
The NCT was very aware that its decisions were subject to review and appeal by the higher courts, and therefore took great care to ensure that they were not overturned on appeal.

The Committee appreciated the opportunity to understand the Tribunal but
was alarmed at the growth in the tribunal’s caseload.

Meeting report

South African National Apex Co-operative (SANACO) submission
Mr Lawrence Bale, SANACO President, said his organisation represented more than 54 000 registered co-operatives in the country, and was grateful for the support it received from the Department of Trade and Industry. SANACO had been established in October, 2009, following a gathering of co-operatives in Tshwane at which it had been resolved to have one apex which represented all co-operatives whose members were operational secondary co-operatives and whose object was to advocate and engage organs of state, the private sector and stakeholders on behalf of both members and non-members.

He said SANACO wished to put forward several changes to the proposed amendments to the Bill. While it agreed with the substitution of the definition provided for a primary co-operative, it recommended that secondary co-operatives should be formed by at least five primary co-operatives, and that they should be grouped in terms of geographic and sector resubmission in order to align themselves with the different spheres of government. It also agreed with the proposed categorisation of primary co-operatives, but felt that the prescription of the monetary threshold should not be determined by the Minister, who might be deployed to another office, but to the co-operatives themselves, which had a day-to-day understanding and knowledge of how enterprises thrived.

Mr Bale pressed for the existence of a single national apex co-operative, as proposed in Section 16A of the Bill, but said there needed to be a coherent definition to avoid a situation in which the country had national apex organisations at local, district, provincial and national level, that were not serving the interest of its members. A national apex co-operative should exist organically, based on needs, and should be formed by a minimum of five provinces, with a minimum of five operational secondary co-operatives, and must be sector representative. This would ensure a coherent national body, recognised in the eyes of the law.

Referring to the Advisory Council, he recommended that at least 60% of the members should be drawn from co-operatives to ensure fair and appropriate resubmission of their interests. SANACO also fully supported the establishment of the Co-operative Development Agency, but submitted that co-operatives should play a leading role by having a majority of at least 60% of its members represented in the body, as it had to work with organised co-operative structures and would have to have a clear understanding of their economic activities.

SANACO opposed the establishment of a “co-operatives tribunal” on the basis that such a body would oppress co-operatives and not contribute to their development. The funds required for a tribunal should rather be used to capacitate co-operatives in order to assist them to sustain their enterprises. It was also opposed to the use of Minmec structures being used for monitoring, as they were not easily accessible and did not meet on a regular basis. It would be more effective for organised co-operative structures “on the ground” to carry out monitoring, supported by the government structures.

Mr Bale stressed SANACO’s view that the Bill must provide for co-operatives to play a leading role in providing inputs where government intervention was involved, and expressed the hope that his organisation would have an opportunity to provide additional information at a future meeting of the committee.

Discussion
Mr G McIntosh (Cope) disagreed with SANACO’s opposition to the establishment of tribunals, as there would inevitably be conflict and the tribunals would provide a “safety net.” He felt it was being idealistic to believe all conflict situations could be resolved without tribunals.

Ms S van der Merwe (ANC) said tribunals were needed because co-operatives often failed due to conflict within their ranks. However, she acknowledged the need to provide funding for supporting capacity development, as it was reported that 80% of co-operatives were not able to sustain themselves. The proposed amendments were aimed at eliminating abuses and assisting co-operatives, with the support of organisations such as SANACO.

Mr X Mabasa (ANC) said the committee was searching for ways in which the Act could help co-operatives to prosper, as it did not want to see a failure rate of 80% in the future.

Mr Bale vigorously defended his opposition to tribunals, on the basis that if there was not voluntary agreement among members of a co-operative, how could a court enforce a resolution? As an example, when a husband and wife had differences and went to court, the court did not settle the differences, but simply allowed them to divorce. Experience had shown that tribunals would not work, and it was therefore proposed that the funds required for the tribunals should rather be used for training. The reason for the 80% failure rate was that members were uneducated, and capacitation was required to move co-operatives from a survivalist mode to mainstream participants.

Ms Van der Merwe pointed out that there was a difference between a court and a tribunal, with the latter having the specific purpose and function of resolving conflict. The Committee was wholeheartedly behind the plea for more support for co-operatives, and this was why it was looking to the Development Agency to provide both financial and non-financial assistance, including education and training.

Mr Mabasa said courts of law were generally inaccessible to the working classes, which was why tribunals had been proposed to overcome the problems of prohibitive costs and frustrating delays. He asked whether SANACO could relate any experiences regarding the use of tribunals internationally.

The Chairperson said tribunals had been proposed as a means of providing easy access to members of co-operatives seeking resolution of conflict, but this did not preclude them from seeking redress in the courts if they so wished. She said SANACO should report back later on the international experience with tribunals.

Mr Thulane Mabuza, General Secretary of SANACO, concluded the discussion by commenting that it was important for capacity to the created at the primary co-operative level, as most problems arose because members did not understand the concept of co-operatives.

Association of Certified Chartered Accountants (ACCA) submission
Mr Nicolaas van Wyk, ACCA Technical Consultant, said the crux of ACCA’s submission related to the proposal in the Bill, that only the Independent Regulatory Board for Auditors (IRBA) should be the recognised body for the independent review of co-operatives. This eliminated ACCA (the global body for professional accountants), the Institute of Accounting and Commerce, the SA Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA), the Southern African Institute for Business Accountants, the SA Institute of Professional Accountants (SAIPA), Chartered Secretaries of Southern Africa, and the SA Institute for Government Auditors. All of these bodies were recognised for independent review in the Close Corporations Act of 1984 and the Companies Act of 2008 – as well as in nine other statutes – and were eligible to issue financial reports. This meant that instead of 30 000 service providers being available to co-operatives, only IRBA’s 4 500 members would be available. This would pose a real predicament for co-operatives seeking people to produce reports on their financial statements in future, as all the other accounting and auditing bodies were currently allowed to perform this service.

ACCA members and members of many other professional bodies had been recognised as “suitable qualified persons” in terms of the current Act for many years, and this had created an expectation that any new dispensation would continue to recognise them. The proposed amendments should therefore continue to provide for persons other than auditors to issue reports for co-operatives.

Mr Van Wyk pointed out that the current Auditing Professions Act of 2005 (APA) did not allow the IRBA to regulate persons other than registered auditors, and this regulatory model could be amended only with the approval of Cabinet and due process followed by Parliament. Legal opinion was that the APA limited the powers of the IRBA to the regulation of audit engagement performed by registered auditors, which meant it had no mandate to regulate any other assurance or compliance service. It appeared that the Bill intended to create a new single regulator for auditors and independent reviewers, which represented a significant policy departure from the intentions of the APA. More clarity and information should be provided on the reasons for this departure, the Cabinet decision which approved the departure, and details of the new accreditation model that would be followed by the IRBA, as well has how and when the Auditing Profession Act of 2005 would be amended to allow the IRBA a wider mandate and scope.

South Africa had a serious lack of accounting skills, with a current shortage of 22 000 accountants across various areas of specialisation. Limiting the independent review function only to persons registered with the IRBA would greatly exacerbate this shortage. ACCA therefore proposed that Bill should be aligned with the Closed Corporations Act and the Companies Act as far as recognition of bodies for independent review.

Discussion
The Chairperson asked if any feedback were available on the international experience of auditing co-operatives.

Mr Van Wyk said the European Union, like South Africa, now recognised different people to issue reports for legal entities. While listed and public interest companies should be audited due to their size and impact, the international movement was away from audit for lower and mid-tier entities to alternatives, such as independent review. ACCA believed an alternative should be available locally, but this should not be restricted to auditors only.

Ms Van der Merwe said the Committee had already heard submissions from both SAIPA and SAICA, and it was good to know that all three bodies were “all on the same page.” The matters raised had been of great significance, and would need to be studied in detail, as the objective was not to make the situation more onerous for co-operatives.

Mr Mabasa asked whether it was accepted that the accounting and auditing professions had not been very sympathetic in the past with the prices they charged for their services to co-operatives, compared to those they charged for large corporations.

Mr Van Wyk responded that both auditing and independent reviews were “after the fact” reports, so an entity would learn about its financial state only six to nine months later. To improve the sustainability of co-operatives, it would be better to appoint an internal person with the necessary qualifications to assist with decision-making, rather than an external person providing information six months later. Day to day control was necessary. The mindset of auditors was generally focussed on large corporations and listed companies, but when it came to trade and industry, and development, one needed more than regulation, and this is where accountants had a role to play. Accountants operated in a competitive environment, and wanted to provide an affordable service. Where co-operatives were involved, they probably needed more guidance on how they could assist, as well as more networking.

South African Women in Co-operatives (SAWICO) submission
Ms Tepsy Ntseoane, SAWICO President, said the Bill had the potential to change the lives of ordinary South Africans, particularly women, who made up the majority of members of co-operatives. SAWICO was a secondary co-operative which had emerged as a voice for all women co-operatives, and its objectives were to provide a business “incubator” facility for the start up and early stages of co-operatives in the fields of management, compliance, mentorship and after-care services. This was important, because many of those who entered into co-operatives were uneducated, and became involved for the wrong reasons.

SAWICO’s concerns focussed on the composition of the various entities referred to in the Bill. It proposed that a “secondary” co-operative should comprise five “primary” co-operatives, instead of two, and these should be drawn from the same sector, such as women, or youth, or people with disabilities, or different economic sectors. An apex body should be formed by five secondary so-operatives of any sectors, from a minimum of five provinces, so that there would not be too many apex bodies, which would limit their ability to come to government and lobby effectively. If a company wish to convert to a co-operative, there should be a minimum of five members, as some closed corporations had as few as one member, and it should not be permissible for a single person to form a co-operative. Finally, the advisory council appointed by the Minister should include at least 50% of co-operative members representing women, youth, people with disabilities and rural communities.

Ms Ntseoane welcomed the proposed establishment of a Co-operative Development Agency, because co-operatives had a unique nature, addressing social, economic and cultural issues. She added that training of members was critical, prior to the registration of co-operatives.

Discussion
Mr Mabasa asked what SAWICO’s attitude was towards the auditing profession, as he believed that they were too expensive for most co-operatives.

Ms Ntseoane said that as all co-operatives had a business component, it was important that they were audited, and critical that they received assistance from the accounting profession.

Ms Van der Merwe said she noted SAWICO’s concerns regarding the numbers of members for secondary and apex co-operatives, and asked for a detailed motivation so that these concerns could be raised with the Department. She supported SAWICO’s objective of providing information to prospective co-operative members before they made mistakes, and wanted to know if it believed the Bill addressed this aspect adequately, or did it need to be strengthened.

Ms Ntseoane said that as the Bill required five members for the establishment of a primary co-operative, it made sense for there to be five required for secondaries. There should not be a proliferation of secondaries, as they needed to be sufficiently large to compete with bigger companies.

Mr G Selau (ANC) asked for clarification of SAWICO’s view regarding the various co-operative structures.

Ms Ntseoane said the apex co-operative should be a policy-formulating body and lobbyist to assist government. If tribunals were introduced, she believed these should operate within the apex co-operative, which would itself need to be trained to understand and deal with conflict. Secondary co-operatives should be involved in providing support to primary co-operatives before they became registered. This was why SAWICO, as a secondary co-operative, was looking at those that were just starting.

Mr McIntosh said it was well known that throughout the world, women played a leading role in uplifting communities. His concern was that while the Bill proposed that the Department of Trade and Industry should get behind organisations like SANACO to help and support them to “build their own houses,” SAWICO was suggesting that the Minister should do some social engineering, and tell the co-operatives what to do. This was a paradigm shift which caused him discomfort.

Ms Netsoeane said as women were in the majority in the country’s co-operatives, and as SAWICO understood the issues affecting them, it could not shy away from the gender issue.

The Chairperson thanked SAWICO for its submission, and invited the organisation to provide any additional information in writing to the Committee.

National Apex Federation of South Africa (NACOFSA) submission
Mr Wellings Maseko, NACOFSA Chairperson, told the meeting that his organisation did not regard the proposed minimum number of five members required to form a primary co-operative, as sufficient. This would lead to dysfunctional management. NACOFSA was recommending that this number be increased to ten, as this would ensure a board could be constituted and adequate resources could be shared to ensure functional management. Furthermore, the high failure rate of co-operatives would not be alleviated if the number of primaries allowed to form secondary co-operatives was not increased from the proposed level of two, to at least five. The only exception should be in the agricultural sector -- if primaries had more than 60 individual members, then two such primaries could form a secondary co-operative. The need for broad resubmission at apex level was also stressed, as this body had a leading role to play in co-operative development and policy formulation.

Mr Maseko said NACOFSA was working with the University of Fort Hare to create a national programme to deal with the mobilisation and education of co-operatives. This would be introduced initially in the Eastern Cape, with the objective of trying to reduce the failure rate from 80% to less than 50% in the next three years. More should be done to ensure that government entities, such as hospitals and prisons, provided supply opportunities to co-operatives, and precise legislation was needed to address this issue.

He said that planning for the introduction of tribunals should go hand in hand with the training of co-operatives, so that they would understand the role of tribunals in the resolution of conflict.

Discussion
Mr McIntosh asked if SANACO and NACOFSA were two separate organisations.

Mr Selau also referred to the fact that there were a number of organisations active in the co-operative movement, and wanted to know if they “talked to each other”, as it was essential to ensure they spoke with a common voice.

Mr Maseko assured the meeting that the organisations communicated with each other, and discussions were taking place with a view to forming a single apex body.

National Consumer Tribunal briefing
The Chairperson introduced the National Consumer Tribunal (NCT) discussion by saying the Committee wanted to establish how many of the National Consumer Commission (NCC) rulings had gone to the NCT, and of these, how many continued to be recognised and how many had been set aside.

Ms Diane  Terblanche, NCT Chairperson, gave a broad overview of the tribunal’s operations. Its role was to contribute to the provision of access to redress for consumers, which was done by findings of instances of prohibited conduct in terms of the National Credit Act and the Consumer Protection Act. Once a finding had been made, a consumer could take the certificate issued by the tribunal to the high court to claim damages.

There were inevitably disputes between the regulators and the regulated entities, and the tribunal’s role was to resolve those disputes at public hearings. Its decisions were subject to review in the courts. Where there was no dispute between the parties, the process could be adjudicated in chambers. The NCT was very aware that its decisions were subject to review and appeal by the higher courts, and therefore took great care to ensure that they were not overturned on appeal.

The tribunal’s main interaction with the NCC occurred in the area of compliance notices, where affected economic participants, dissatisfied with the NCC’s rulings, brought them to the tribunal for review. However, there was no redress for consumers in the issuance of a compliance notice. Non-compliance resulted in the application of an administrative fine, payable to the fiscus, while criminal contraventions – such as fraud and corruption – could lead to prosecution in the courts.

Ms  Terblanche presented statistics illustrating the growth in the tribunal’s caseload (see presentation). Around 120 cases were allocated each week to the tribunal’s part-time members, and this meant that they were each dealing with an average of 40 to 60 cases at any given time. To reduce the demand for financial resources to meet the increased caseload, the members were being allowed to work from home via computer, and this had resulted in the throughput of cases increasing from one case every three days, to 12 cases in the same time period. Many cases related to consent order applications, mainly dealing with debt rearrangement agreements.
Most concerning were the 49 instances of prohibited conduct under the Consumer Protection Act, which involved the charging of excessive interest rates.

When the tribunal had to adjudicate on issues, it had to consider two broad aspects – the jurisdictional and substantive issues involved. Of great significance was the principle of “natural justice”, involving the constitution and respect for the dignity of the parties involved. Jurisdictional issues had the potential to prolong hearings, so the tribunal tried to deal with them before the hearings in order to reduce the time involved, in the interests of fairness and keeping costs down.

Ms  Terblanche said over the years, the tribunal had reached 90 decisions, and had been taken to court on appeal or review over only four matters, with only one being overturned. This related to South African Fraud Prevention Services, where the high court disagreed with the tribunal’s interpretation of what constituted a credit bureau.

It was necessary for the tribunal to improve its accessibility, as currently its only offices were in Centurion. It had entered into agreements with other consumer protection offices in the provinces in order to hold hearings around the country.

She concluded her presentation by advising the Committee the tribunal was being taken to the high court as a result of an urgent application by the NCC over the order the tribunal had issued regarding the Alliance Auction issue. The hearing is set for July 31.

Ms  Terblanche commented it was not unusual for courts and tribunals to issue orders, and then advance the reasons at a later stage. Constitutionally there was remedy in case of conflict among public entities. The remedy involved having to take other measures of redress before resorting to the courts.

Discussion
The Chairperson sought clarity on the reference to adjudication processes as they appeared on the presentation. She wanted to know if the presentation indicated the cases the Tribunal had looked at; whether rulings were made on the cases, and if so, were they upheld.

Ms  Terblanche replied this was the case, and an indication was given as to whether the rulings were upheld or overturned.

The Chairperson said it was the first time she was made to understand what the Tribunal was doing. This appeared to be a creative approach of operating, given the budgetary constraints the entity was faced with.

Mr G McIntosh (COPE) agreed and said he learnt a lot. It was good to see that the Tribunal was not only meticulous about the legal implications but also had the awareness that it could be challenged. It was good that NCT was concerned about saving money and making use of good IT. He wanted to understand where the country was with the National Credit Act. He cited an example of a farmer who no longer could grant loans to farmworkers under the new Act, but instead advanced salaries. He asked if this scenario provided for loopholes in the Credit Act.

Ms  Terblanche replied that in terms of advances and loans, the Tribunal considered substance and not the terminology people used. This was the NCT mandate: to look at substance and not technicalities.

Ms Marelize Bosch, NCT Head: Legal Support, said a credit agreement remained - no matter what other name was used.

The Chairperson sought clarity on the legality of a loan or an advance credit that did not carry an interest.

Ms Bosch replied it was legal and according to the definition of a credit agreement was specific. There had to be a cost or interest - usually referred to as the cost to admin fee. She said if there was no interest then that would not be a credit agreement.

Ms S van der Merwe (ANC) said that although she did not understand everything, the presentation was enlightening. The kind of work the Tribunal did was dense and dependent on expertise in the field of law. She said the country had a problem because there should not be more cases coming to the Tribunal. The 158% increase in cases was either as a result of people thinking they would try everything or there was general unhappiness with the original decisions. This was unacceptably high; Parliament did not want the work of the Tribunal to grow. Decisions had to be final; and the law needed to be properly applied.

Ms Hazel Devraj, NCT Registrar, replied that numbers on the consent orders could only rise. This would have an impact on the economy because once a person was under debt review, that person might not be able to obtain credit unless they got a debt clearance certificate. This would have a great impact on the economy in future. The NCT had done a lot of workshops explaining its role and processes. The Tribunal did not have hearings but adjudicated the consent orders in chambers.

Ms van der Merwe said she was alarmed by the growth in cases and that it was indicative of a problem. She asked that the NCT explained what its objectives were in terms of the caseload.

Ms  Terblanche replied that NCT did not believe it was seeing the amount of debt rearrangement cases that should come to the Tribunal. There was over utilisation of the magistrates' courts, and at a high cost to consumers. She said disagreements between consumers and credit providers could be heard at NCT at a cost of R100, whilst at the courts it went as high as R3000 (just to put the matter before a magistrate court). The Tribunal expected to see more debt rearrangements, but as an institution there needed be creative ways of dealing with these cases efficiently and cost effectively. This was a sign of the country's economic situation and the financial distress many people found themselves in.

Mr X Mabaso (ANC) said he was happy that cases were covered in all official languages in South Africa. He said courts were very inaccessible to poor people and related a story of an 83-year-old grandmother who was kicked out of her four-roomed house - due to money owed - by “Pam Building Society”. The elderly lady had to sleep over at the holding cell because she would not have money to make a court appearance the next day.

Ms Bosch replied that this case did not fall under the domain of the Tribunal, but that she understood that the high court would enquire about a consumer before it would grant an execution against a property.

The Chairperson said this proved that there was no correct alignment between the law and justice. It appeared that the Tribunal focussed a bit more on the importance of investigations. This was quite a major area, that other regulators did not pay much attention to. She said the Committee would prefer it if the cases did not grow.

Ms  Terblanche replied that investigations were the reason the Tribunal could not uphold on the procedural side the City of Johannesburg matter. One could only issue a compliance notice, if there was reasonable ground to believe that prohibited conduct was engaged in. The facts were needed to conclude or generate a belief; and facts were gathered through an investigation.

The Chairperson sought clarity on the interim relief. It appeared that as soon as the consent order had been signed, the Tribunal was unable to issue the interim relief. She asked if some of the consent orders were done under pressure.

Ms  Terblanche replied that to be able to appear before the Tribunal for interim relief, one had to have a conduct matter referred for prosecution. Once a choice was made on issuing a compliance notice, then one could choose to refer it for prohibited conduct.

The Chairperson requested a comment on simplifying the work of the Tribunal in a pocket book format especially for Members to take to constituencies. She also asked if the Committee decided on reviewing the National Credit Act, what would be the challenges without impeding manufacturing and industrialisation, especially when consumers complained on minute issues such as changing colour of a car after having used it.

Ms  Terblanche replied that this was where the issue of due process came in. The Tribunal could not simply address a complaint because a consumer had laid it. There had to be even-handedness among the parties, before the regulators and the Tribunal. It was possible in some instances that the business was the one abused, and the Tribunal looked at that. People exploited the legislation. She said the concept was interesting, and there was provision in law. There were examples of exemption from legislation for prohibited conduct, where the parties could approach the regulator and ask to be exempted.

Ms  Terblanche said the Tribunal did not view itself as the central agency able to provide access to re-test to the entire SA. NCT worked with other adjudicators; the Tribunal worked with Provincial Consumer Affairs Offices. Tribunal members also had capacity building workshops with provinces. The Tribunal hosted the hearings at its provincial offices as that created awareness and provided public relations with the consumers in their localities.

Ms  Terblanche said the Tribunal's caseload could only grow. The Department of Trade and Industry (dti) had agreed to more fulltime members of the Tribunal. NCT could not become a huge organisation; but need to look at the need for increased services and still manage growth.

The Chairperson said the Committee would like to have the NCT back and engage regularly with it in ensuring Parliament was kept abreast of the work of the Tribunal.

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