If you supply goods or services (supplier) or if you use goods and services (consumer), the Consumer Protection Act 68 of 2008 (the Act) applies to you.
What does the Act entitle you (consumer) to – Access to a fair and sustainable marketplace to trade in goods or services; protection when trading in goods or services; access to information on goods or services; fair marketing and business practices and higher standards of generally responsible behavior by both suppliers and consumers.
The Supplier and Consumer Relationship – As a purchaser or supplier of goods or services, you are entering into numerous transactions on a regular basis, potentially amounting to millions of rand, where one party is relying on the representations and promises of the other. Such a relationship has historically exposed the consumer to abuse and exploitation in the marketplace. As a result, the Act was introduced to regulate and protect the supplier and consumer.
Here are 8 consumer rights every consumer should know:
1. Right to equality in the consumer market and protection against discriminatory marketing practices
The supplier is prohibited from limiting the consumer’s access to goods and services, to ensure high-quality, fair pricing of goods and services, and no consumer groups are prioritized over others. The consumer has the right to lodge complaints.
2. The right to privacy
The consumer has the right to privacy and restrict unwanted direct marketing (text, telephone calls, letters or ‘spam’ e-mail) and the right to discontinue receipt of direct marketing at any time, the right to ‘opt out’ of receiving unsolicited direct marketing services by blocking the relevant supplier or marketer.
3. The right to choose
The consumer has the right to select the supplier of your choice, to cancel or renew a fixed-term agreement, to request pre-authorization for repairs or maintenance services, to cancel direct marketing contracts within the cooling-off period, to cancel advance reservations, bookings or orders, to return goods and seek redress for unsatisfactory services and to retain and not pay for unsolicited goods or services.
4. The right to disclosure of information
The consumer has the right to demand agreements in easily-understood and plain language; has the right to disclosure of prices of goods and services provided by the supplier and the right to product labeling and trade description to ensure that they understand what’s been sold or marketed to them.
5. The right to fair and honest dealing
The consumer has the right to protection against behavior that is unethical or improper by the supplier and protection against false, misleading or deceptive representations to ensure that what you see is what you get without any unfair hidden clauses.
6. The right to fair, just and reasonable terms and conditions
This right promotes clarity for the consumer such as the consumer’s need to know the details of any agreement entered into and that such terms and conditions are just and reasonable. The consumer is entitled to be made aware by the supplier of any potential risks or liabilities.
7. The right to fair value, good quality and safety
The consumer is entitled to quality goods and services, with the right to relevant warranties or to claim damages for injuries caused by unsafe/defective goods.
8. Right to accountability from suppliers
The supplier is accountable to the consumer in lay-bye agreements or arrangements relating to prepaid certificates, credits and vouchers, and access to prepaid services and service facilities.
The main objective of the Act is to protect the consumer by promoting fair, accessible and sustainable trading. This can only be achieved if suppliers and consumers are equally aware of their rights, duties and obligations.
About the author: Monisha Prem (BA MBA) is the CEO and senior legal practitioner at Excelsur Legal Services. Monisha is an admitted attorney with over 10 years post-article experience in law.