Up until four years ago, the consumers of South Africa were basically left unprotected and vulnerable to exploitation by suppliers of goods and services. In 2011, the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) came into effect and the South African consumer saw the dawn of a new era. Many consumers do not understand the CPA, its purpose and how it was created to empower and protect consumers.
In essence, the CPA signifies the rights of the consumer and the responsibilities of the supplier. The aim of the act is to promote fairness, openness as well as good business practices between the suppliers of goods and services and the consumers of such goods and services. Since the implementation date, all suppliers of goods and services need to comply with CPA regulations.
The purpose of the CPA has been to create a legal frame of reference to encourage a fair, attainable and competent marketplace for consumers. It serves as a platform to scale down on the complications defenceless consumers experience when accessing goods or services and shield consumers from unethical trade practices. It also functions as a mechanism to promote responsible consumer behaviour and boost consumer empowerment. Lastly, the CPA aims to administer a productive system of retribution for consumers and to reinforce and restore existing consumer protection. The Act affects you, the consumer as well as supplier of goods or services.
You may ask yourself, what exactly my rights are as a consumer in terms of the CPA. The Act gives consumers nine rights. Apart from the formulation of the nine consumer rights, the CPA has highlighted several key points. The CPA deals with marketing by promoting ethical marketing standards, restricting unwanted marketing and prohibiting discriminatory marketing. Marketing efforts must be factual and accurate and may not mislead the Consumer in any way.
The Act provides a five business day cooling-off period for transactions that come from direct marketing, these are transactions not initiated by you, the consumer. The cooling-off period will commence after the day on which the transaction or agreement was concluded, or the day on which the goods or services were delivered to you. Remember, you have the right to cancel without reason or penalty, by notifying the supplier in writing. Keep records of your correspondence.
The CPA regulates the term, renewal and cancellation of fixed-term contracts. The Act prevents the automatic renewal of a fixed term contract. As a consumer, you have the responsibility to terminate or renew the contract. If the Consumer fails to renew or terminate, the contract will continue on a month on month basis on the new terms as notified by the supplier. Consumers can also cancel a contract before the term by providing 20 business days notice, but may be liable for a reasonable cancellation penalty.
The CPA also prohibits the supplier to accept payment for goods or services if it has no reasonable intention to supply the goods or services, or if it intends to supply goods or services that are materially different to those that you have paid for. The supplier can be penalised if they fail to deliver goods, services or reservations for which they have accepted payment.
Lastly the CPA provides an implied warranty of quality. In terms of this warranty the producer/importer, distributor and retailer each warrant that the goods comply with the requirements and standards outlined in the CPA. Failed, unsafe or defective goods may be returned to the supplier within six months after the delivery of the goods to you, the consumer. Remember, you have the choice to be refunded, or have the goods replaced or repaired.
Knowledge is the key to open the door of empowerment and by being aware of your consumer rights you can protect yourself and not be vulnerable to exploitation by suppliers.