Monday, October 3, 2011

The Power Report short circuited

Dear Megan Power,
What a let down that was. Your power has been advertised recently all over the place as if you were some supernatural being who could perform miracles for consumers.
The Times carried a whole page with your stern looking image peering out of it and we were told, Ripped off? Fight back.  Megan Power. Batting for you.
We were assured your Power Report in the Sunday Times each week would be championing our rights as consumers and exposing the bad.
Featured this week it said, would be defective new cars, shoddy repair jobs and appalling service.
All very impressive. People must have rushed out to get the paper in which you were going to tell all about how you sorted out these rip off artists in no uncertain terms.
Perhaps I’m being a bit na├»ve. I always thought the main purpose of a consumer column was to ensure, as far a possible, that consumers got justice. And with the huge circulation of a paper, like the Sunday Times behind you, suppliers would be more likely to come to heal rather than risk further bad publicity.


But that means they have to fear being named.


That brings me to that let down I mentioned in the beginning.
Your first report after that massive promotion in The Times (the Sunday Time’s little sister) consisted of a litany of complaints against SA’s top car brands and leading dealerships and involve new, and mostly very expensive cars.
After that build up complainants had every reason to believe that your power would result in having their problems sorted out.
They must have got a shock because all you did was to list a dozen anonymous complaints about nameless vehicles and dealers. If that’s all the power you’ve got you should team up with Eskom. It also specialises in keeping people in the dark.
You told us things like how dealerships had reneged on promises to replace a R275 000 car, after it was stolen while in for servicing; damaged a car worth R250 000 while in for repair; driven a customer’s vehicle into another one while it was being serviced and done a shoddy repair and so on.


BUT NOBODY WAS NAMED AND SHAMED, Megan.


I know you are only as powerful as the paper your work for so I have to asked: Hasn't the Sunday Times got the guts to allow you to name all these dealers and top car brands?
Or is it that your power has been short circuited because your paper doesn’t want to offend them in case they might cancel million rand, colour adverts in your paper?
All you ended up doing was passing the buck. Your article concluded by telling readers they could take their grievances to the Retail Motor Industry Organisation, but only if the supplier is one of its members. Last time I contacted them I was told to pay a fee of several hundred rand for the privileged of lodging my complaint.
You also suggested the Motor Industry Ombud or the National Consumer Commission and you added that patience is required when dealing with these organisations.
That’s exactly why people contacted you because they were hoping that the Sunday Times had the power to help them quickly, especially as patience is not a virtue that is easily cultivated when you haven’t got wheels.
Yours watchfully,
Jon, Consumer Watchdog and Poor Man’s Press Ombudsman.
P.S. Please lodge this as a complaint.


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