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FM Edition:

Consumer goods & services ombudsman Neville Melville is threatening to chase down companies that fail to register with his office through the courts.

Only 240 businesses have registered with the ombud since registration became mandatory in April last year. Melville warns that government could resort to regulations not unlike those in the financial industry to force compliance. And he is prepared to name those companies who don’t comply by the end of the month.

The ombud is a self-regulatory body that enforces an industry code of conduct by investigating consumer complaints free of charge.

The national consumer commission has delegated part of its responsibility to the ombud to enforce the Consumer Protection Act.

Norton Rose Fulbright director Rosalind Lake says it would be surprising if government were to beef up regulations . "The [act] already extensively regulates the retail sector," she says. "Non compliance with the code is the same as a contravention of the consumer act."

Lake says companies that fail to sign up should be fined, in accordance with the act. It is in the industry’s best interest to participate, she says, as it provides a way to resolve issues amicably.

Companies that have registered include MTN, Spar and Tongaat Hulett.