“Holding Public and Private Sectors Accountable” Report of the 2007 Consume r Rights Day Conference in South Africa Introduction On Thursday 15 M arch, the National Consumer Forum (NCF) – with the sponsorship and logistical support of Absa Bank – hosted one of the most successful and high profile Consumer Rights Day events in South Africa to date. The NCF is grateful to Absa Bank for the sponsorship provided. The quality and profiles of speakers reflected the importance with which consumer issues are being viewed by the South African public, as well as the regard in which the NCF is held. The speakers on the day were: Tito M boweni, Reserve Bank Governor Patricia de Lille, M ember of Parliament and Leader of the Independent Democrats Happy Ntshingila, Absa Group Executive, Group M arketing Shan Ramburuth, Competition Commissioner Gabriel Davel, National Credit Regulator M ark Napier, Finmark Trust CEO M oses M oeletsi, SA Bureau of Standards Regulatory Executive Liesel Loubser, HDI Youth M arketeers Janet Love, Legal Resources Centre National Director Isaack Lesole, National Commuter Hotline CEO Some of the speeches which were presented at the conference are available on the NCF website - www.ncf.org.za. Despite having begun arrangements at a relatively late stage, the event was well planned and managed. All the speakers that were invited did arrive, and delivered well-prepared, thought-provoking talks – an indication of how seriously they regarded the topic and the event. The conference was well covered by print and electronic media alike. Planning The event was organized by an NCF-Absa team, which began meeting in January 2007. The NCF arranged the speakers, pre-conference publicity and non-Absa delegate invitations, while Absa arranged the venue, the logistics for the event itself, and the delegates from Absa. Publicity Working on relatively short time-lines, delegates were canvassed directly by the NCF across a range of stakeholder groups. The result was that the delegate mix was a fruitful balance of government agencies, private sector organisations, NGOs and consumers themselves (some representing co-operative structures in depressed rural areas). The NCF used press releases and selected mass media, including: • • • • • Our regular daily slot on the SABC IKWEKWEZI FM Local and national radio shows – from East Coast Radio and Voice of the Cape to SAFM and 702 / Cape Talk Television programmes like M orning Live, Rights and Recourse, etc Newspaper coverage in the Sowetan, City Press and others Our own website at www.ncf.org.za The conference The two key draw-cards of the conference were M P Patricia de Lille (morning session) and Reserve Bank Governor Tito M boweni (afternoon session). Their presence drew a high level of interest from both delegates and the media, ensuring a capacity crowd and the presence of most of the leading media groups. The number of people that registered and attended exceeded 300, and it is estimated that there were over 200 people in the hall at any one time during the day. In planning the programme, the NCF made sure that the speakers would address topical issues of day-to-day concern to consumers in the country. We also ensured that the programme director for the day, lawyer Stephen Logan, was someone who was directly familiar with these issues, and could speak with authority on the topics being addressed. The line of speakers included the most important government agencies in the field of consumer protection – the National Credit Regulator, the SA Bureau of Standards and the Competition Commission. The NGO sector was represented by Finmark Trust – presenting research findings and insights into consumers’ use of (and exclusion from) financial services – and the Legal Resources Centre, which exposed some important areas in which consumer rights were being regularly abused by business and the state. Youth were represented through the HDI Youth M arketeers, who talked about advertising and the way in which business communicates with the youth. One of the largest categories of consumer activities – commuters – were given special emphasis through an address from the National Commuter Hotline. Coverage The conference received the highest level of coverage on the evening of and day after the event. The main media that gave it prominence were: • • • • Business Day, 16 M arch, with a front page article Business Report, 16 M arch, with a front page article Sowetan, 16 M arch, with a lead article in the business section, as well as a column on the topic Citizen, 16 M arch, with an article in their business section During the conference, the chairman of the NCF, Thami Bolani, had interviews with the following radio stations: • • • • • IKWEKWEZI FM (live for one hour) SABC News THOBELA FM (live for 15 minutes) LIGWALAGWALA FM (live 10 minutes) JOZI FM (live 20 minutes) Along with other media coverage – including TV and radio – the direct exposure of Absa’s involvement amounted to more than R500 000 of advertising value (see table below that is not exhaustive). Immediate post-event media coverage The 2 007 Consumer Rights Day Confe renc e receiv ed the following media c ove rage : PRINT 1. City Press Bu siness - 18 March 2 007 - Hea dline - "Con su mer champio n clamps down on g ree d" - Non paid valu e - R28 2 39 2. Business Times - Money Section - 18 Ma rch 20 07 - Hea dline - Boon for consume rs" - Non Paid value 3. Bee ld - 19 March 2007 - Headlin e - "Ons moet vre esloo s wees, se De Lille" - Non paid valu e - R12 2 10 4. Citizen - 16 Ma rch 20 07 (Moneywe b Busin ess) - Hea dline "Mb oweni give ban ks time" - Non Paid value 5. Business Re port - 16 March 2007 - Headline - "W atch th at debt - Mbowen i will still lift rates is necessary Non Paid Value - R32 814 6. Business Da y - 16 March 2 007 - Hea dline - "Mbowenigive s b anks break on credit code - No n Paid Value 7. Daily Sun - 20 March 2 007 - Hea dline - Give blacklisted ano ther chance - Non Paid Value -R28 046 8. Sowetan - 20 March 2007 - Headlin e "Heading right fo r a debt trap" - Non Paid - R24 61 5 9. Personal Fina nce - 17 March 200 7 - Head line - "New credit act comes at rig ht time t o protect consumer, says regulator - Non Paid va lue - R12 60 0 TV: 1. Summit TV 2. Summit TV 3. Summit TV 4. Summit TV - R 28 R 114 R 12 R 14 R 32 R 24 R 28 R 24 239 841 210 200 814 100 046 615 R 12 600 15 March 200 7 15 March 200 7 15 March 200 7 15 March 200 7 - Interview Interview Interview Interview with Patria De L ille - News 1 9h00 - No n Paid Value - R3 5 000 with Patricia (rep eat) - News 20 h00 - No n Paid Value - R35 000 with Patricia (rep eat) - News 21 h00 - No n Paid Value - R35 000 with Patricia (rep eat) - News 22 h00 - No n Paid Value - R35 000 R 35 R 35 R 35 R 35 000 000 000 000 WIRING SERVICES: 1. I-Net Bridge - 16 March 2007 - Headlin e - "Mb oweni gives banks more times on reserve s" 2. Ine t Bridge - 16 March 2007 - Headline - "Mbowen i p ositive on g rowth despite 2 00bps hikes" 3. I-Net Bridge - 16 March 2007 - Headlin e - "Mb oweni: Need to be vigilant ove r fo od prices" 4. I-Net Bridge - 16 March 2007- He adline - "Mbo weni aiming f or a virtuous econ omic cycle" 5. Mo neyweb - 16 March 2007 - He adline "No, I will not hike reserves" RADIO: 1. Le se di (Sesotho ) - Cu rrent Aff airs - 1 6 March - 06h05 - Headline - Mboweni has lashed ou t at ba nks for acting irresponsibly in giving credit to co nsumers - Non Pa id value - R42 435 Estima ted total R 42 435 R 474 100 Our understanding is, however, that Absa’s involvement in the conference was not intended to be a marketing exercise. Rather, it was in fulfilment of its consumer education obligations, and the value of the exposure is therefore just a reflection of the value of information brought to the attention of consumers. Perhaps we need to work together more closely in identifying the best ways of measuring the impact of consumer education – so that Absa can apply more appropriate measures of its consumer education initiatives. Future With the growing importance of consumer issues on the South African social and economic landscape, and the clear public interest demonstrated in this conference, the NCF will be initiating the planning for the 2008 event very shortly. We trust that our successful co-operation to date will allow us to work together on this and other projects going forward, to mutual advantage and in the interests of consumers in our country.