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Consumer Rights

by | Jul 7, 2020 | Personal Finance

As consumers, we have consumer rights – especially since the The South African National Consumer Protection Act (CPA) came into effect on 1 April 2011.
Yet sadly, many of us still get “caught out” because we are not aware of these rights.

In order to better understand our consumer rights, we first need to know exactly what the Consumer Protection Act is, and how it can work for us.

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The website of the Western Cape Office of the Consumer Protector answers some questions on the CPA and our consumer rights.

What are our consumer rights?

The Consumer Protection Act gives 8 rights to consumers:

1. The right to consumer education

Consumers must be able to access the knowledge and skills needed to make informed and confident choices about goods and services, while being aware of basic consumer rights and responsibilities and how to act on them.

2. The right to disclosure and information

Consumers must be provided with the facts needed to make informed choices and ensure their protection against dishonest or misleading advertising and labelling.

3. The right to choice

Consumers should be able to choose from a range of products and services, offered at competitive prices, with the assurance of satisfactory quality.

4. The right to representation

Consumer interests should be represented in the making and execution of government policy, and development of products and services.

5. The right to redress

Consumers must receive a fair settlement of just claims, including compensation for misrepresentation, or shabby goods or services.

6. The right to safety

From a trade and industry perspective, consumers should be protected against production processes, and products and services that are dangerous to health or life.

7. The right to a healthy environment

Consumers should be able to live and work in an environment that is not threatening to the well-being of present and future generations.

8. The right to access basic needs and services

Consumers should have access to basic goods and services, such as adequate food, clothing, housing, health care, education, clean water and sanitation.

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What is covered by the CPA?

The CPA covers a wide range of factors aimed at protecting consumers. Below are some of the key aspects covered by the Act:

  • Cooling-off periods

Section 16 of the Act provides for a cooling-off period of five business days in instances where transactions came from direct marketing – in other words, transactions which were not initiated by the consumer. The five business day period will commence five days after the day on which the transaction or agreement was concluded, or the day on which the goods or services were delivered to the consumer.

  • Contracts

The Act regulates the term, renewal and cancellation of fixed-term contracts. In terms of section 14 of the Act, there can be no automatic renewal of a fixed term contract.

  • Language

The Act does not contain a provision for information to be in an official language. However, section 22 requires that all information should be in plain language. The Act also requires that the language used should be appropriate to the group that the goods or services are aimed at.

  • Overselling and overbooking

The Act provides for the “reasonableness” test for overselling and overbooking. In terms of this test a supplier may not accept payment for goods or services where it has no reasonable intention to supply the goods or services, or where it intends to supply goods or services that are materially different to the goods or services for which the consumer has paid.

  • Implied warranty of quality

The Act provides for 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 Act.

  • Prepaid certificates, credits and vouchers

The Act states that gift or similar vouchers expire either upon redemption or after three years.

Consumers have every right to lodge a complaint against retailers and service providers. If you are in the Western Cape, your first point of call will the the Western Cape Office of the Consumer Protector.

The Western Cape Office of the Consumer Protector is a provincial protection agency that provides information, education and redress to consumers within the province. You can contact the Western Cape Office of the Consumer Protector for more information on the CPA and to lodge a complaint against a supplier within the Western Cape.

Western Cape Office of the Consumer Protector
Consumer Advice Offices
Contact information:

Waldorf Arcade,
80 St George’s Mall,
Cape Town,
8001
PO Box 979,
Cape Town, 8000
General enquiries:
Toll Free: 0800 007 081
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For more information on the CPA and to lodge a complaint against a supplier outside the Western Cape you can contact the:

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI)

DTI Consumer Affairs Committee/Customer Contact Centre

Tel: 086 184 3384
Website: www.thedti.gov.za

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