What Is Consumer Federaton’s Role?

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A reader (“Anti-Banks”) wrote in a letter published in The Namibian of 13 October, 2006 about bank charges, and I can understand his/her frustration as I am equally frustrated. However, he/she asked the question: “What is the role of the Consumer Federation, or whatever it is called, if it does not represent the interests and wishes of consumers?” I would therefore like to use this opportunity to try to answer that question as well as to get possible board members for our organization. There are not very many consumer rights organizations in our country. In fact, some people would argue that consumer rights organizations are either weak or non-existent. I would agree with such an argument, like I said I am also frustrated by the rampant poor service delivery in our country. I thought I could actually do something about it by educating consumers about their rights as well as encouraging businesses to provide quality goods and services at reasonable prices. I therefore founded the Namibian Consumer’s Association (NCA) on 8 September, 2005, which will be a Section 21 (Not for Gain) Company. Even though I am the founder, it will be governed by a board of directors who will be responsible for the organization and its activities (many NGOs were started by individuals). I have been hunting for board members who are not only competent, but a board that would reflect the diverse society we live in as well as have a gender balance. This process takes time and could involve lawyers and accountants who do not offer the cheapest of services (not that I am complaining about their involvement – it’s the costs). The NCA has maintained a low profile since it has not even been launched, not to mention secured directors who will take over control of the organization, after which it will be registered at the Ministry of Trade. However, there was an opportunity this year, which I doubt will be repeated next year when we are fully operational. I am sure you were not referring to the NCA when you asked that question, since it was one of the consumer rights NGOs (if not the only one) that made a presentation to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on economics, natural resources and public administration on exorbitant bank charges. This presentation received coverage in both the print and electronic media (you might want to visit a library for newspapers from 17 to 19 July, 2006 or contact NBC Radio and TV). I am currently busy with an investigation to see if claims/comments made by Bank executives at the hearing, as well as through the media, have substance or truth (please note I am not saying they lied or do not have substance; I am still only investigating). My bank, which does not bother to check their complaint’s book or simply refuses to contact me, is partly hampering this investigation by not contacting me despite being requested to do so. Consumers need to be united so that issues that affect them are being fought on a fulltime basis, otherwise your contribution to the economy won’t receive the recognition it deserves. Any letter expressing support for this initiative would be appreciated, and interested persons are encouraged to acquaint themselves with the relevant legislation and apply for a director position. Executive Director Namibian Consumers Association NCA) is a new organization. Michael Gaweseb Klein Windhoek