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Tuesday Feb 21, 2012

Joburg residents hope for justice after billing hearings

Joburg residents, aggrieved by the City of Joburg's billing chaos, are waiting for the outcome of the National Consumer Tribunal hearings to be held this week.

The hearings are the result of consumers having lodged complaints with the National Consumer Commission (NCC) about unfair treatment at the hands of the council.

The consumer commission upheld the complaints, and after following legal processes, including giving the city the opportunity to rectify its mistakes, issued 65 compliance notices against the council, ordering it to abide by its decision.

However, the council objected to the compliance notices and appealed to the tribunal to set them aside.

The consumer commission is opposing the application to set the notices aside.

The hearings will be heard over three days.

If the council loses and refuses to abide by the tribunal's decision, it faces fines of between R100 000 and R500 000 per matter, but the commission can issue it with fines of up to R1 million, or 10 percent of the Joburg council's turnover.

The hearings revolve around cases in which residents feel they have been unfairly charged, had their services cut off, were being charged incorrect rates, had their properties incorrectly valued or were not getting their pensioner rebates.

Last year, the commission became involved in the city's billing debacle after receiving about 450 complaints from aggrieved residents.

At the time, NCC commissioner Mamodupi Mohlala vowed to see justice done for the residents. She followed due legal processes and timeframes, but claimed the council had not co-operated.

She said numerous meetings had been held, with promises made and broken.

There had been an opportunity for mediation, but the council had not sent representation.

Mohlala said the objections the council had raised with regard to the complaints were not sound in law.

The tribunal said the hearings would be conducted "in an informal manner and in accordance with the principles of natural justice".

Spokeswoman Ruth Coggin said an "informal manner" meant that anyone can appear before the tribunal without needing to be represented by an attorney; and "in accordance with the principles of natural justice" meant that the tribunal does not allow technical barriers to unduly prejudice any party before it.

The hearings will be held at the Braamfontein Recreation Centre from Wednesday from 10am.

The Star


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