Address by Commissioner Ebrahim Mohamed at the Media Briefing to Launch the Public Inquiry Into the Vacation Ownership / Timeshare Industry

ADDRESS BY COMMISSIONER EBRAHIM MOHAMED AT THE MEDIA BRIEFING TO LAUNCH THE PUBLIC INQUIRY INTO THE VACATION OWNERSHIP / TIMESHARE INDUSTRY:

Pretoria

Moderator,

Deputy Commissioner of the National Consumer Commission, Ms Thezi Mabuza

Inquiry Panelists,

Members of the media,

Officials of the NCC present,

Ladies and gentleman,

Good morning.

Thank you for gracing us with your presence this morning, as we launch this very important inquiry in the vacation ownership industry. I am confident that this tried and tested process will assist the NCC to finally guide the way forward in making recommendations that will lead to solutions to problems and challenges faced by consumers.

The National Consumer Commission has always held the view that complaints from timeshare consumers are valid and warranted. We adopted this view based on our assessment of individual complaints over time, thousands of them may I add, which have been lodged against holiday clubs and their value chain role players over the past nearly two decades since I joined the former Office of Consumer Protection at the Department of Trade and Industry.

A myriad of allegations has been levelled against role players of the vacation ownership or timeshare industry, and these are serious allegations, some of which fly in the face of the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act, which is a law created as an extension of our Constitution for purposes of protecting and guaranteeing the social and economic welfare of citizens in the commercial space.

Consumers allege amongst others that they have been misled into signing up for lifetime contracts that can never ever be cancelled. They further allege that companies overbook and over sell accommodation, and that timeshare companies threaten them with litigation if they cannot afford to pay levies for properties which they never get to stay in because the properties are always fully booked.

The most disturbing aspect of it all, I think, is that the vacation ownership industry has done little or nothing to correct itself, which is naturally what every industry should be doing when issues are raised with its role players’ conduct, products or services.

It is disgusting in my view that captains of this industry can turn a blind eye on the relentless pain and suffering of consumers for such a long time.

In 2015 the NCC lodged an application with the National Consumer Tribunal following an investigation into the three major holiday clubs. It later withdrew these cases because of technical defects in them that were potentially harmful to its case. We were legally challenged by these clubs, and the NCC realised that it would prove very costly for taxpayers to proceed with a matter that would address industry-wide challenges.

NCC then explored various potential options that would provide effective redress for consumers, and after careful consideration it was resolved to institute a public inquiry into the Vacation Ownership Industry, In terms of Section 88(3) of the CPA, bearing in mind the South African and international consumer protection-, legislative-, economic-, and structural contexts of the Industry.

The purpose of the inquiry is to identify the root causes of the issues experienced by consumers, make findings on the facts and evidence presented to the Panel of Inquiry, and make recommendations on how to address the consumer issues highlighted in the complaints.

Noting the nature of the issues that form the basis of this Inquiry, as well as the skills that are required for the successful carrying out of its mandate, I have authorised the appointment of a three-member Inquiry Panel who will lead the processes of the inquiry. The members are present here with us and are Ms Diane Terblanche who is an attorney with extensive experience in consumer protection law at all levels, policy development and advisory, legislative drafting, institutionalising and implementing policy and law, organisational and programme evaluation, governance adjudication and executive management. Ms Terblanche is also the chairperson of this panel.

The two other members are Mr Aubrey Ngcobo who is an admitted attorney specialising in property law for over 22 years, and Ms Zandile Mpungose who is also a very experienced attorney with extensive experience in contract management, policy development and strategy.

The panel will together with the NCC’s technical task team conduct the inquiry over a period of six months across the length and breadth of the country, by engaging consumers , role players in the vacation ownership industry, regulators, academics, courts, tribunals and all other interested parties are relevant to find facts that will inform their report which will be submitted to me for endorsement.

In doing that they will gather evidence, statements, solicit information through questionnaires or surveys, produce documents, attend hearings, and participate in inspection in loco and other activities that are appropriate and necessary.

The aforesaid will be done to

– Establish the nature, characteristics and types of Vacation -, Timeshare and similar products and their associated services promoted and made available to South African consumers;

– Establish the basis upon which industry products and services are promoted and made available to South African consumers;

To establish the manner in and channels through which the promotion, rental, sale, swaps and all manner of making industry products and their associated services available to South African consumers;

To establish who the providers of the industry are and their inter-relationships (if any);

To establish the inventory of properties [points] in respect of which industry products / rights and their associated services are provided in and for;

To assess the pre-contractual disclosures provided to consumers in respect of contracts entered into in respect of industry products and rights, and their associated services;

To review the agreements ordinarily entered into between consumers and the industry providers and to determine the object(s) of the contracts, who the parties are to the agreements, the respective parties’ rights and obligations and the applicable contract terms and conditions;

To ascertain the basis upon which prices, fees and levies are determined (e.g. does the grading of a particular club or resort have any effect on the price, levy or fee?); and for long term Vacation-, Timeshare products and rights whether there is provision for consultation with the consumers in respect of the general upkeep and maintenance of the properties (to keep them viable and valuable for the investors);

To determine the ownership and shareholding structures of properties in which Vacation- and Timeshare ownership and rights and other similar products and their associated services, rights are established;

To analyse and assess consumer complaints about the promotion, rental, sale, re-sale, swaps, occupation and all manner of making reservations for vacations.

– Review the laws, regulations, policies and codes applicable to the promotion, rental, sale, re-sale, swaps and all manner of making reservations for vacations.

– Identify the gaps, inadequacies or misalignment in the laws, regulations, policies and codes that possibly compromise regulation of the Industry including whether the current regulatory arrangements are effective in protecting consumers.

– And last but not least, make recommendations of the various options available to address the gaps, inadequacies, misalignment and inefficiencies in the laws, regulations, policies and codes regulating the Industry and improve the protection of consumers.

Upon conclusion or finalisation of the Inquiry process, the Panel will compile a written Report, setting out inter alia:

– Evidence on the nature of industry products and rights, similar products and their associated services and the –

– The regulatory regime governing VOI / Timeshare and other similar schemes in the country, setting out the advantages and disadvantages of the current regulation of timeshare;

– Establish which alternative regulations, laws, or other instruments might more effectively regulate the products and associated services;

– And make recommendations on specific features of the Vacation ownership products requiring dedicated regulation, or that could be considered for exemption from legislation / regulated in specific dedicated existing regulation.

A roadmap has been prepared with the panel in the form of a project plan. The processes include amongst others, visits to provinces, to consult different role players. This will include consumers who have filed complaints, interest groups as well as academics.

Once completed, the panel will submit a comprehensive report to me which I will assess and together with my team, make a determination on how to take the process forward. This could include a variety of recommendations to the Minister of Trade and Industry for certain legislative reforms.

In conclusion I wish the panel and the task team everything of the best, and trust that they will do a thorough job for the benefit of consumers.

I thank you.

Distributed by APO on behalf of Republic of South Africa: Department of Government Communication and Information.

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Source:: Address by Commissioner Ebrahim Mohamed at the Media Briefing to Launch the Public Inquiry Into the Vacation Ownership / Timeshare Industry

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Regional forum on sustainable development officially kicks off in Addis Ababa

The 2017 Africa Regional Forum on Sustainable Development (ARFSD) officially kicked-off in Addis Ababa today with Acting Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa, Abdalla Hamdok, calling on Africa to stop exporting raw materials and primary goods to feed industries of the developed world.

In his welcome remarks to delegates, Mr. Hamdok said exporting finished products would help Africa empower its people by eradicating some of the challenges it is currently facing, in particular unemployment and poverty.

“It is high time that the continent really changed this outdated model which we inherited from colonial rule, of continuing to export raw materials and primary commodities.

“Africa has to take a bold decision and say to itself ‘stop exporting raw materials’. We have to add value to our commodities and that is the surest way of creating decent jobs, addressing unemployment and related issues,” said Mr. Hamdok.

He said Africa should resist the continuing economic model that is benefiting outsiders more than local populations if the continent is to successfully implement Agenda 2063 and Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development.

Mr. Hamdok, who enumerated the ECA’s work on trade and industrialization, statistics, climate change and other efforts with its partners to help the continent implement the two agendas, also said African countries should take advantage of the ongoing protectionism debate in the West and concentrate on increasing trade and investments amongst themselves for the betterment its people.

“Many have seen this as an alarming signal but I see it as an opportunity which will allow us to develop our intra-Africa trade,” he said.

Mr. Hamdok said every ARFSD is a stark reminder that the clock is ticking very fast for the continent.

“We have a narrow window of opportunity to march boldly towards reducing poverty. The challenge is huge but the opportunities for transformational development are limitless,” he said.

For his part, Ethiopia’s Water, Irrigation and Electricity Minister, Seleshi Bekele Awulachew, said the theme of the meeting; “Ensuring inclusive and sustainable growth and prosperity for all” would be rendered meaningless unless the continent started addressing vulnerabilities on the continent.

“Inclusiveness, citizen participation, peace and security are key pillars to the achievement of the development agendas,” said Mr. Bekele, adding good governance and leadership were also crucial ingredients to a peaceful and prosperous Africa.

He applauded the ECA for partnering with Ethiopia, through its finance ministry in the area of statistics, which he said will allow the country to monitor and track progress in the implementation of its developmental priorities.

The African Union Commission’s Economic Affairs Commissioner, Anthony Mothae Maruping, for his part, said the AUC, working with its partners, was doing its best to ensure Member States domesticate Agendas 2030 and 2063.

He said partnerships with the outside world should be in the context of the two agendas.

Mr. Maruping said Africa can only grow if it empowered its youth and women and invested in the necessary infrastructure, adding Agenda 2063 seeks to achieve accelerated, stable, inclusive and real economic job-creating growth in Africa.

He said no form of poverty was acceptable on the continent, adding domestic resource mobilization, including stemming illicit financial flows, was crucial if the continent is to fund its development.

“Africa knows what it wants, what should be done to get it or to get there and with what to get there and when to get there,” said Mr. Maruping.

“There’s coherence, consistency and alignment in Africa. We just have to stand up and implement both agendas,” he said, adding the AU is also reforming itself to make sure that it is fit for purpose to deliver prosperity to the African people in an efficient and coherent manner.

Egypt’s Deputy Minister for Planning and International Cooperation, Ms. Nehal Magdy Ahmed Elmegharbel, shared her country’s experience in domesticating and embedding Agendas 2030 and 2063 into its national plans and vision.

She highlighted the need for data and information in helping Africa monitor the implementation of the two agendas.

Egypt was the chair of the Bureau of the 2016 ARFSD.

The 2017 ARFSD is in preparation for the 2017 High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) that will be held in New York in July under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) under the theme; “Eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world”.

The ARFSD tracks progress in the implementation of the 17 SDGs that are at the core of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Distributed by APO on behalf of United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).

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U.S. Embassy Partners with Entrepreneurship Development Center to Promote Entrepreneurship in Ethiopia

The U.S. Embassy Addis Ababa and The Entrepreneurship Development Center (EDC) are pleased to announce the launch earlier this month of a Mentorship Program to help further foster entrepreneurship development in Ethiopia. The program connects successful Ethiopian aspiring entrepreneurs with experienced mentors. These mentors, entrepreneurs themselves, provide coaching and technical assistance on specific problems identified by their mentees, in order to help them grow their business and become competitive in the marketplace.

A total of fourteen companies seeking technical assistance were selected for the program on a competitive basis. The companies come from a variety of sectors including manufacturing, agro processing, construction, and service. Six seasoned entrepreneurs volunteered their valuable time to serve as mentors. Based on the identified needs of the mentees and their own area of interest, the mentors each selected one or more companies to support.

Over the next six months, the entrepreneurs and mentors will work together, identifying specific areas for improvement and establishing targets to measure progress.

Mentors and mentees will be honored during Global Entrepreneurship Week 2017 (November 13-19, 2017), where the entrepreneur demonstrating the most improvement will receive special recognition.

Entrepreneurs create jobs and help fuel economic grown around the world. They embody and foster a culture of self-sufficiency, initiative and innovation. Countries with strong entrepreneurs tend to be strong trading partners. For these reasons, the United States has long fostered the growth and development of entrepreneurship around the globe. Through initiatives like this mentorship program and the annual Global Entrepreneurship Summit, U.S. Embassies around the world seek to encourage and recognize young entrepreneurs.

EDC is a quasi-government entity aims to enhance the skills and competencies of entrepreneurs through training and business development support in order for the businesses to be profitable, competitive and sustainable (www.edcethiopia.org).

Distributed by APO on behalf of U.S. Embassy Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

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ICD and FINOKO signed a MoU to cooperate in the establishment of the Islamic Microfinance Window

The Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (“ICD”) (www.ICD-PS.org), the private sector arm of IDB Group, and FINOKO have entered into a Joint Strategic Collaboration to establish an Islamic Microfinance Window.

The CEO of ICD, Mr. Khaled Al Aboodi and Mr. Turan Ismayilov the Chief Executive Officer of FINOKO sign the Agreement during IDB 42nd annual meeting at hotel Hilton in Jeddah.

Mr. Khalid Al Aboodi, CEO of ICD stated, “ICD has always been interested about financial inclusion and measurable development impacts. This program will help cater the most vulnerable and target the most vulnerable and entrepreneurial class of clients. With the help of our partner ICD can become a pioneer promoter of Islamic Microfinance”.

Mr. Turan Ismayilov said, “We are happy to be the first MFI to receive advisory services from ICD on establishing an Islamic microfinance window and we are looking forward to more co-projects with ICD to assist FINOKO reach its target clients and strengthen our capabilities and resources”.

Distributed by APO on behalf of Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD).

Media Inquiries:
Mr. Nabil El Alami
Email: NAlami@ISDB.org
Fax: +966 12 6444427
Tel: +966 12 6468192

About Finoko:
Non-Banking credit organization (NBCO) is a financial services company in Azerbijan that focuses on lending to households to meet their business and consumer needs. Licensed by the Central Bank on Sept. 2014 and operate through 3 branches.
Finoko (www.Finoko.com) has created a criteria-based marker system which is easy and effective in evaluating a wide range of different businesses and consumers in their financial needs. Only financially prudent/performing businesses and households are evaluated, ensuring that its recommendations make financial sense.

About the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector:
ICD is a multilateral organization and a member of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) Group. The mandate of ICD is to support economic development and promote the development of the private sector in its member countries through providing financing facilities and/or investments which are in accordance with the principles of Shari’ah. ICD also provides advice to governments and private organizations to encourage the establishment, expansion and modernization of private enterprises. ICD is rated AA/F1+ by Fitch and Aa3/P1 by Moody’s. For more information visit www.ICD-PS.org.

Source:: ICD and FINOKO signed a MoU to cooperate in the establishment of the Islamic Microfinance Window

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