As the deadline for the implementation of the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) draws closer, demand for telephone recording solutions is growing among all types and sizes of businesses across South Africa.
That’s according to Graeme Victor, CEO of telecommunications solutions company Du Pont Telecom, who says the routine recording of telephone interactions between businesses and their customers will no longer be the preserve of the financial services and direct marketing sectors, as was the case in the past.
“Du Pont has experienced an upsurge in queries about telephone recording solutions in recent months from businesses across the economic spectrum, as they prepare to deal with the impact the CPA could have on their operations.
“We are finding that if a business uses the telephone to interact with customers, it wants an easy and efficient way to record, store and retrieve customer conversations. They want avoid a ‘he said, she said’ situation in the case of disputes between the business and the customer,” he explains.
Victor notes that although the purpose of the Act is "to promote and advance the social and economic welfare of consumers in South Africa” and spells out the rights of consumers and the responsibilities of suppliers of goods or services, it has been criticised for being “an overzealous attempt” to protect consumer rights.
The Act revolves around a number of specific consumer rights, including the right to equality, privacy, disclosure and information, fair and responsible marketing, fair and honest dealing, fair, just and reasonable terms and conditions, and fair value, good quality and safety.
“It is a complex piece of legislation with excellent intentions. It is designed to protect consumers from unfair trade practices, while simultaneously promoting consumer empowerment and providing an efficient system of redress for consumers.
“However, legal experts have warned that some of its provisions are so broad that litigation could become the order of the day,” he says.
He adds that it would not be surprising if some of the first litigation under the Act resulted from telephone interactions – anything from a direct sales or marketing call to dealing with a routine customer query about the features of a product or service.
Penalties for contraventions are severe: if found guilty of an infringement – which could include making a "misleading" statement – a business could face an administrative fine of up to R1-million, or 10% of annual turnover – whichever is the greater.
“Prudent businesses, therefore, are installing voice recording systems that can be used as evidence in disputes.
“Customers, of course, must be warned that their conversation is being or will be recorded. However, recording all conversations is the best way a business will be able to protect itself against frivolous or malicious litigation,” Victor concludes.