The Department of Mercantile law hosts Consumer Protection Dialogue in collaboration with Gauteng Consumer Affairs.

Posted on April 25, 2024

 

The faculty of Law works tirelessly to establish industry relations for the benefit of its staff and students, to keep up with global law school practices. Maintaining industry relations allows the faculty to maintain relations with graduates who are in practice as well as establish new ones with experienced practitioners. In addition, the relations help with developing experiential learning, as well as help departments to identify legal experts who may be invited as guest lectures giving our students the prospect to gain valuable insights from those already in practice. Our students are given comprehensive exposure, enabling them to make informed choices when deciding on an area of specialty.

 
The Department of Mercantile Law hosted a joint dialogue with the Gauteng Economic Development with discussions centred around the theme of consumer protection. The event was also, the first in a series of collaborative engagements which will be held by the two organisations in the future, fostering mutually beneficial relations. The dialogue brought various stakeholders including academics, regulators, practitioners, postgraduate students, and UP Law alumni to share insights with each other, also tabling recommendations for enhancing consumer rights and protections in South Africa.


Prof Phumudzo Munyai the Head of Department (HOD) at the Department of Mercantile Law and the rest of the lead academics who were instrumental in delivering the dialogue including Dr Phemelo Magau, Dr Tshepiso Ngoepe, Dr Jani van Wyk and Prof Christiaan Swart together with their counterparts at the Gauteng Office of Consumer Affairs can be proud of the strides made in advancing relations between academics and the myriad of regulatory bodies who were party to the discussions. This highlights the University of Pretoria being a first adopter and taking the lead being the sole institution in South Africa offering an LLM program focussing on consumer law and protection.


Mr Raymond Martin from Gauteng Economic Development delivered the keynote address outlining the challenges faced by regulatory bodies, including insufficient resources, limited delegation of enforcement authority, and complexities presented by rapid technological advances. He also cited the need to create strategies to revitalise the sector using collaborations. Ms. Nthupang Magolego, representing the National Credit Regulator (NCR) also talked about the need for improved regulation of credit bureaus and the key role of the NCR in safeguarding consumer interests within the credit ecosystem. The second session was presented by Mrs Diane Terblanche’s spoke about the foundational principles of consumer protection that need to be evaluated. The final session was led by Sanele Mthuli, Consumer Protector at the Gauteng Consumer Affairs, who highlighted common consumer grievances and proposed legislative measures to address them.


Various academics from UP Law took the lead as panelists and session chairs for the day, with other guests. Topics covered a myriad of topics tackling the role of credit regulators in reducing consumer over-indebtedness to the pivotal role of regulatory bodies in safeguarding consumer interests. Panelists emphasized the need for collaboration, innovative approaches, and the leveraging of technology to address emerging challenges effectively. These engagements truly demonstrated the importance of academia to contribute meaningful impact to address legal challenges experienced by society and affirmed the faculty of law’s readiness to contribute impactful solutions.


Throughout the discussions, speakers offered diverse perspectives and practical recommendations on their respective topics. Some notable proposals entailed revisiting legal frameworks to enhance financial education and leveraging AI, incorporating data analytics in the practice of law, and exploring multifaceted approaches to ensure robust consumer protection in the contemporary world.


The Consumer Protection Dialogue served as a platform for robust discourse and collaboration among various stakeholders in the sector. Overall, they agreed on the collective commitment to promoting fairness, transparency, and accountability within consumer services. As South Africa navigates evolving consumer dynamics, such dialogues play an important role in shaping policies and introducing practices that promote consumer rights and protection of their interests.

 

- Author Palesa Mbonde

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