Consumer affected by a bus strike entitled to a refund – consumer body says

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Zodidi Mhlana

JOHANNESBURG- Consumers who recently complained about being offered travelling vouchers valid for two months instead of refunds following a bus strike have been urged to lodge complaints with the National Consumer Commission (NCC).

Several consumers have approached this news website saying that they could not travel to their destinations as a result of a national bus strike which lasted for nearly a month.

Sihle Milazi said that when the bus strike came to an end, she visited bus company, African People Movers (APM) to get a refund of R340, but was told to use a travelling voucher.

“I bought the ticket a week before the bus strike and on the day of travelling, no bus was available and no busses offices in Park Station were closed. While I was expecting a refund, I was told that I was getting a voucher valid for two months,” she said.

Milazi said that the company was yet to her if she would be refunded.

“At their offices, I was told to send an email to explain my situation and that was three weeks ago and I never received a response. No one is telling me whether I would be given my refund or not and It’s annoying as I don’t want to travel anymore,” she said.

The nation-wide bus strike which began in April and ended in May affected several bus companies including Putco, Golden Arrows, APM and Greyhound.

Trevor Hattingh spokesperson for the National Consumer Commission (NCC) said the unhappy consumers should lodge complaints with their office.

“Consumers can lodge complaints with the National Consumer Commission so that we can assist them to resolve their disputes with the bus companies. Given the circumstances, it would be unfair of a bus company to deny consumers a full refund of their monies,” he said.

He said that it was unfair that customers had been offered vouchers valid for two months.

“One needs to be realistic here. If a consumer was required to travel to a certain destination for a funeral and had to make alternative travelling arrangements due to the bus strike, then how can it be expected of the consumer to still travel to that destination again when there is no longer a need to do so? It is thus mischievous of these bus companies to offer unto consumers vouchers that are valid for two months, instead of refunding them in full,” he said.

Responding to the issue, APM CEO said Tumisang Kgaboesele said:“As a general rule, this is contained in the terms and conditions of carriage, If a service gets interrupted on issues that have nothing to do with the company or where company does not have control over those issues, we issue vouchers and we don’t do cash refunds. The only time we do cash refunds is only when we cancel a service based on operational reasons. Sales offices do not keep cash, we all use drop boxes,” he said.

He said that the company was refunding customers on a case to case basis.

“We dispatched a bus to pick up people and we had to cancel as the busses could not physically get into Park station, we were prevented from rendering service. We are not a business of robbing people. I’ll tell you how this works, if a passenger writes to us with their personal circumstance, we are able to process their refund. We don’t have a blanket of not refunding people. We look at case by case and we are reasonable people,” he said.

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