The Consumer Protection Act was passed in 2008, and has been in effect since 2009. The act was inspired by the fact that consumers in South Africa are often not given value for their money and are unfortunately not always treated with fairness and honesty by service providers and retailers. Whether you provide a service in your business or consume services like we all do, you should know the basics of the Act, how it protects consumers, and what service providers need to do in order to comply with it.
A summary of the Act
The Consumer Protection Act has several objectives, as stated in the document itself. It aims to:
- Promote a fair, accessible and sustainable marketplace for consumer products and services
- Establish national norms and standards to ensure consumer protection
- Make provision for improved standards of consumer information, to 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
From these points, you’ll see that the CPA aims to protect consumers from unfair practices, but also requires that consumers act responsibly when they make purchases. It’s important to note that the National Consumer Commission can now hear cases where consumers feel they have been mistreated by service providers.
How the Act affects businesses
- The CPA states that businesses will treat their customers fairly. This includes offering good quality items at a reasonable price, without changing the quality of items that cost the same amount.
- Businesses must also respect the privacy of consumers, and can’t disclose any personal information about their clients to any other person or business without the client’s express permission.
- Consumers are entitled to cancel contracts on their expiry dates at no extra charge. If they choose to renew the contract, the same rule applies when the new period ends.
- Repairs and maintenance can’t be carried out unless a quote was first sent to the consumer. Pre-authorisation can only take place if the quote has been accepted.
If consumers feel they have been treated unfairly by service providers, they can report the case to the National Consumer Commission, which will give a ruling based on the evidence that is available. An individual or business can bring a case before the commission.
For more information on the Consumer Protection Act, you should read this excellent article on Labour Guide’s website.