LOCAL GOVERNMENT: Government: Small Municipalities Need Not Comply with CPA
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Will deprive poorest ratepayers and consumers of recourse against municipality
The Minister of Trade and Industry has announced that the application of the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) to medium and low capacity municipalities has been deferred until further notice. There are over 200 of these municipalities, most of which are rural.
Trudie Broekmann, consumer law expert at Webber Wentzel says the deferment means that ratepayers and other consumers of municipal services, such as water, electricity, refuse removal, vehicle licensing, use of sports facilities, and people who rent municipal housing, are being deprived of the recourse they would otherwise have against their municipality under the CPA.
“The tragedy is that many residents of these municipalities are South Africa’s most impoverished citizens who are least able to defend their rights.
“We urge the relevant Ministers to take urgent steps to equip the low and medium capacity municipalities to meet their obligations under the CPA. It would be in the best interest of South African consumers if the deferment of the CPA in respect of these municipalities is lifted as soon as possible.”
The CPA is set to come into full effect on 31st March 2011. Rob Davies, the Minister of Trade and Industry, announced in a notice dated 14 March 2011 that, on the request of the Minister for Co-operative Governance, he has deferred the application of the CPA to all municipalities other than "high capacity municipalities" until further notice.
Municipalities are categorised by National Treasury as high, medium or low capacity in terms of the Local Government: Municipal Finance Act, 2003.
Examples of high capacity municipalities are City of Cape Town, Saldanha Bay, Drakenstein, Stellenbosch, Breede Valley, Overstrand, Mossel Bay, George, Nelson Mandela, Buffalo City, Mangaung, eThekwini, Hibiscus Coast, Newcastle, Polokwane, Greater Tzaneen, Potchefstroom, City of Johannesburg, Tshwane, Emfuleni, Randfontein etc.
All of these municipalities will need to comply with the CPA as from 31 March.
Broekmann says the CPA does pose challenges, even for high capacity municipalities in meeting their obligations under the CPA.
“The CPA is complex, and sometimes difficult to interpret. The obligations are both numerous and onerous, and the penalties and legal risk which these municipalities face if they do not comply with the Act, are substantial. However, the CPA confers valuable rights on ratepayers and consumers, and municipalities should make every effort to implement the Act correctly.”
Business News Sector Tags: Law| Local Government|