According to GRAEME VICTOR, CEO of Du Pont Telecom, the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act should be extended to provide small and medium businesses some defence against being ripped off by unscrupulous providers of goods and services.
It’s not unusual for SMEs to be fleeced by providers of essential business goods and services such as PBXs because they don’t know what they are being charged for.
Du Pont has come across PBX lease agreements entered into by a small business in which the cost of a basic unit has been inflated by 100 percent or more.
I believe that with CPA-type regulations in place, businesses would be less vulnerable to this kind of overcharging. The supplier would have to specify the make, model and specifications of the PBX and also itemise all other charges included in the lease agreement.
Businesses would then know exactly what they were paying for. Armed with this information, they would be able to shop around for the best deal from a position of strength.
Another common rip-off in the business telephony arena occurs when the PBX unit needs to be upgraded to accommodate more lines and extensions. The SME is told that upgrading is “impossible” because the unit is too old, or too small, or too “basic”.
However, all that may be required is the insertion of an upgrade card that costs in the region of R5 000. Replacing a PBX can cost 10 times that.
This incorrect advice from the PBX supplier may not always be malicious.
What often happens is that the business’s original PBX provider is no longer around. The new provider may not be familiar with the SME’s existing PBX brand so recommending switching to a brand he does supply is the obvious alternative.
By the time the SME finds out that the old PBX could have been upgraded, it is too late. Extending the protection afforded by the CPA to businesses would make suppliers less cavalier about offering misleading and inaccurate advice.