The Consumer Protection Act: Made for You
“Consumer protection is an integral part of a modern, efficient, effective and just market place… Let us not forget: we are all consumers.”
– Mandisi Mpahlwa, former Minister of the Department of Trade and Industry
What is the Consumer Protection Act?
The Consumer Protection Act, passed by then-president Kgalema Motlanthe in 2009, was overhauled with the consumer in mind. It was enacted by Parliament to:
- Promote a fair, accessible and sustainable marketplace;
- Establish national norms and standards to protect the consumer;
- Improve standards of information supplied to consumers and prohibit certain unfair marketing and business practices;
- Promote responsible consumer behaviour;
- Promote a consistent legislative and enforcement framework, related to consumer transactions and agreements;
- Establish the National Consumer Commission; and
- Replace, in a new and simplified manner, existing provisions from five acts, including the Consumer Affairs (Unfair Business Practices) Act of 1988; Trade Practices Act of 1976; Sales and Service Matters Act of 1964; Price Control Act of 1964; and Merchandise Marks Act of 1941 (specifically Sections 2-13, and 16-17)
Why was it enacted?
Implementing the act became instrumental in achieving higher levels of consumer protection. It was believed that previous protection act was outdated, fragmented and failed to reflect the valued principles of the new Constitution.
Which transactions apply?
The Consumer Protection Act applies to every promotion - or the supply of any goods and services - occurring after the 31st of March 2011. The transactions excluded are:
- Goods or services promoted or supplied to the state;
- Industry-wide exemption being granted to regulatory authorities;
- Credit agreements, in terms of the National Credit Act, but not goods or services;
- Services under employment contracts;
- Agreements giving effect to collective bargaining agreements
Who may lodge consumer complaints?
- Any individual or authorised person acting on behalf of another
- A person acting as a member or in the interest of an affected group or class
- A person acting in the public interest
What penalties does the act allow for?
For purposes of ensuring compliance, the CPA provide that an administrative fine of not more than 10% of the respondent’s annual turnover during the preceding financial year or R1,000,000 could be imposed for a prohibited practice.
What are consumer rights?
- Right to equality in the consumer market and protection against discriminatory marketing practices
- Right to privacy
- Right to choose
- Right to disclosure of information
- Right to fair and responsible marketing
- Right to fair and honest dealing
- Right to fair, just and reasonable terms and conditions
- Right to fair value, good quality and safety
- Right to accountability by suppliers
HOW CONSUMERS ARE IMPACTED:
Right to privacy:
Consumers have the right to restrict unwanted direct marketing.
- Consumers have the right to refuse unwanted SMS’s, telephone calls, letters or ‘spam’ e-mail.
- Customers have to consent to being sent any form of communication.
Right to choose:
Right to request pre-authorisation for repairs or maintenance services.
- Consumers have the right to request free written cost estimates/quotations from suppliers, prior to the suppliers executing any repairs or maintenance services.
- Consumers have the right to pre-authorise or refuse any additional repairs or maintenance services and are not liable to pay for repairs or maintenance services done without their prior approval.
- Suppliers are not permitted to charge consumers for any diagnostic work/inspections required in compiling cost estimates/quotations unless there was prior agreement.
Right to cancel advance reservations, bookings or orders:
- Consumers have the right to cancel any advance reservations, bookings or orders.
- Suppliers are entitled to request a reasonable, advance deposit for reservations, bookings or orders, depending on the nature of the business and specific circumstances.
- Suppliers are entitled to impose a reasonable charge for the cancellation of reservations, bookings or orders, depending on the nature of the business and specific circumstances.
Right to choose or examine goods, even after purchase and delivery:
- Consumers have the right to refuse display items or opened goods, and request unopened/new goods.
- Consumers are entitled to reject goods if they do not correspond with pre-approved samples.
- Suppliers are required to provide consumers with reasonable opportunity to examine goods purchased or delivered.
Right to return goods and seek reimbursement for unsatisfactory services:
- Consumers have the right to return unsafe or defective goods and request a full refund for such goods, provided this is done within a reasonable period.
- Consumers have the right to return goods that were not pre-examined prior to delivery.
Right to disclosure of information:
Consumers have the right to disclosure of prices of goods and services
- Suppliers are required to display the prices of goods and services, in full view of consumers.
- Suppliers are required to specify the duration of any promotions in catalogues or brochures, failing which consumers have the right to purchase the goods or services at the specified prices.
- Consumers have the right to demand paying the lower price for goods displaying two varying prices – suppliers are not permitted to charge consumers the higher price for the same goods.
Right to fair and honest dealing:
Consumers have the right to protection against false, misleading or deceptive representations
- Suppliers are not permitted to, directly or indirectly, provide consumers with false, misleading or deceptive representations regarding goods or services.
- Suppliers are not permitted to use exaggeration, innuendo or ambiguity when referring to goods or services or the benefits thereof.
Right to return goods:
- Consumers have the right to return goods (that were intended to satisfy a particular purpose) to the supplier within 10 business days, if the goods have been found to be unsuitable for that particular purpose.
- If a customer has specifically informed us about the purpose for which they require our products, the consumer is entitled to expect that product to satisfy this purpose.
Right to protection against over-selling and over-booking:
- Suppliers are required to honour the supply of goods or services on specified dates, times and other particulars, if committing to such arrangements in reservations or bookings.
- Consumers have the right to demand refunds for full amounts paid in respect of commitments or reservations, together with interest, at prescribed rates, from the dates of payment until the dates of reimbursement.
Right to fair value, good quality and safety:
Customers have the right to implied warranty of quality
- Consumers are permitted to return goods to suppliers, without penalty and at the suppliers’ risk and expense, within a period of six (6) months after delivery of such goods, if the goods are of inferior quality, unsafe or defective.
- Suppliers are obliged to refund, repair or replace the failed, unsafe and defective goods.
- Suppliers are obliged to replace goods or refund the consumer the price paid for the goods within a period of three (3) months after repairs have been done, if the repaired goods are found to be defective, have failed or are considered unsafe.
Right to a warranty on repaired goods:
- Suppliers are obliged to warrant every new or reconditioned part installed during any repair or maintenance work, and the labour required to install it, for a period of three (3) months after the date of installation or a longer period, as the supplier may specify in writing.
- Warranties are null and void if consumers are found to be misusing or abusing goods or property, while under warranty.
Right to claim damages for injuries caused by unsafe/defective goods:
- Producers, importers, distributors or retailers of any goods are each liable for any harm caused wholly or in part, as a consequence of the following:
- Supplying any unsafe goods;
- Product failure, defect or hazard in any goods; or
- Inadequate instructions or warnings provided to the consumer pertaining to any hazard arising from or associated with the use of any goods, irrespective of whether the harm resulted from any negligence on the part of the producers, importers, distributors or retailers, as the case may be.