Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Brilliant Trail Blazer's new Consumer standard



Dear Consumers,
          Brilliant, fantastic. There’s nothing like a trail blazer and hopefully they’ll all be doing it one of these days.
          How come it’s taken something like a 100 years at a rough guess, for somebody to realise that consumers can’t go on being taken for a ride like this.
          It’s a minefield. Watch out; Watch out; businesses keep telling us. They’re all over the place, these warnings.
          Don’t’ think for a minute that they are there to protect you, the consumer. But you are still expected to comply with them as one of the privileges of parting with your hard earned cash.
          I don’t know when they started creeping in; those ominous words Terms and Conditions Apply. They could only have been dreamt up by some corporate lawyer determined to ensure that his client received the utmost protection from those ravenous sharks in the consumer pool.

          It’s behind these few words that advertisers hide all the nasty bits; all the things they are too ashamed to tell you openly in case they put you off their product completely.

          If they do actually let you see them in an ad why do they appear in the smallest possible print if they expect you to apply them? Looking at just a couple of editions of the Sunday Times I found these horrors in most of the large advertisements.
          One ad from Clover Dairies exhorted us to buy a bottle of milk to get a complimentary Sunday Times subscription delivered to your door. Simple enough you would have thought but the mile long Terms and Conditions torpedoed the whole thing.
          This was especially so as the print was so minute that only a forensic laboratory would have been able to decipher it. Even a paper that is in the printing business is so ashamed of them that it doesn’t want you to see them.

          All those words of warning for a bottle of milk and a newspaper; it’s unbelievable. Thankfully this dairy/newspaper team is not selling cars.
          A center spread colour ad for First National Bank told us about various aspects of its wonderful service. And in the one corner the tiny Terms and Conditions warning appeared to put the breaks on any fancy ideas you might have about asking for more than you are entitled to.
          Where you were supposed to find them was your problem. Did that gel with the bank’s motto: How can we help you? that appeared on the other side of the page?
          Other ads continued to promote this game of hide and seek. Cell C told us helpfully that for Terms and Conditions visit cellc.co.za
          Fixed line operator Telkom took up an entire page to tell us about its Gr 8 Deal which is its venture into the cell phone business. And of course the smallest print at the bottom was reserved for the catches, otherwise known as its full terms and conditions. These were hiding on its website.
          With all these big companies still stuck in a time warp it’s been so refreshing to see Riaan Stassen and his Capitec Bank cutting through this ridiculous protectionist, consumer unfriendly behaviour. Its television ad shows a man holding up a card with Terms and Conditions Apply written on it in bold letters.
          What do you think he does with it? He tears it up and throws it away.
          No wonder South Africa’s youngest bank, that is just 10 years old, was named one of the 27 Great Brands of Tomorrow by Credit Suisse. It was the only African brand to be included.
          Not surprisingly its share price has gone through the roof.
       How long have we got to wait before the rest of the business world in South Africa wakes up to the fact that Terms and Conditions are a gigantic no, no and should all be torn up and thrown in the rubbish bin?
          Do your bit consumers by keeping well clear of the Terms and Conditions freaks.
          Yours watchfully,
          Jon, the Consumer Watchdog

PS. I have now been embarrassed into revealing my Terms and Conditions referred to in the introduction to my blog. They are: Don’t believe anything on my Blog unless it’s true. That’s the gist of them but my lawyer has managed to spin them out to 25 pages which can be found on my website if only I had one.


Buy my book 'Where have all the children gone?' on Amazon.com  It's thriller with an underlying love story that defied generations of prejudice.

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