The Tsunami of Consumerism

By John Graham

How did consumerism spread so quickly?

In this age of instant information, the world is changing at an increasingly fast pace.  There is a multiplication factor at work as more and more people communicate through the internet.  A trend which once may have taken several decades to become obvious now occurs almost overnight.

Governments in the Arab world, after centuries of low grade citizen resentment, have been overthrown within weeks by people communicating on Twitter and Facebook.

Knowledge is now almost instantaneous – just Google it!   Communication is via email (to which you must, of course, be able to instantly respond  via your Blackberry or iPhone) or by texting.People who don’t, or won’t,do business this way will soon be out of business.

Consumerism is one phenomenon of the information age which is rapid changing South Africa and how we do business.  The National Credit Act – which was a consumer driven law – had a massive impact on property sales in South Africa.  Now the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) is here to stay.

Some people say (rightly) that the CPA is a badly written piece of legislation and there are too many grey areas in the Act.  That may be so, but you can also be sure that consumer legislation in South Africa will be tightened, not relaxed, going forward.

Everywhere in the world consumer rights are growing.  A good example can be seen from the comments in theSunday Timesby the directors ofMassMartwho said that they thought SA companies were focused on the customer until they had an opportunity, via the Wal-Mart takeover, to study the American experience with consumerism.   The South African managers described Wal-Mart’s passion for consumer rights as an “obsession”.

We live in a global village and the old ways of doing business without regard to consumers’ rights is dying or is dead already.

In the property industry in South Africa, full up-front disclosure of all material facts inorder to protect the rights of buyers is going to become the enforceable norm far quicker than many people think.

Wise property professionals will position themselves ahead of the pack and will eagerly embrace the concepts of transparency and disclosure.   Those estate agents who routinely use tools such as home inspection reports will enjoy a growing competitive advantage over the dinosaurs who still try and find shelter behind the “voetstoots” clause.

John Graham is the CEO of HouseCheck.  He can be contacted on 083 3109 766 or john@housecheck.co.za

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