Know your Consumer Rights
As we head into the shopping season of year, we need to be aware that as consumers, we have rights.
Yet, few South Africans are even aware that there is legislation protecting our consumer rights. It’s important that you know your consumer rights.
The Bill of Rights is what enshrines the rights of all South Africans – these rights includes our consumer rights.
The Consumer Protection Act then goes further, and expands these key consumer rights.
What is the Consumer Protection Act?
The Consumer Protection Act, No. 68 of 2008 (or CPA, as it is commonly referred to) was signed on 24 April 2009.
Amongst other things, part of its core aims are:
- To promote a fair, accessible and sustainable marketplace for consumer products and services.
- To make provision for improved standards of consumer information and to prohibit certain unfair marketing and business practices.
- In addition, it also aims to promote responsible consumer behaviour.
The Consumer Protection Act applies to the following:
- Every transaction occurring within the Republic of South Africa;
- The promotion or supply of any goods and services occurring within the country, as well as:
- Goods or services that are supplied or performed, in the country, in terms of transactions mentioned in the Act.
THAT basically means, that no matter what country it comes in from, if it gets sold in South Africa, it is subject to the terms outlined in the Consumer Protection Act of South Africa.
Some rights outlined in the Consumer Protection Act:
- THE RIGHT TO CHOOSE:
Part of this means that you have the right to cancel or renew a fixed-term agreement.
- Consumers have the right to cancel fixed-term agreements upon expiry of the contract period, without penalty or charge.
- Suppliers must extend fixed-term agreements on a month-to-month basis, if the consumers failed to request the cancellation of such agreements.
- So, if you have not informed your cell-phone service provider of your wish to cancel and not renew your fixed term contract on its date of expiry – they may not automatically renew your contract for another 24 months.
Another part of the right to choose is the consumers right to request pre-authorisation for repairs or maintenance services.
- Consumers have the right to request written cost estimates/quotations from suppliers, prior to the suppliers executing any repairs or maintenance services.
- This means that no supplier can just “fix” something – whether it be a cellphone or a vehicle – and give you the bill afterwards, if they have not given you a quotation, which you approved, before-hand.
- Consumers are not liable to pay for repairs or maintenance services done without their prior approval.
Under the right to choose, also falls the right to cancel direct marketing contracts within the cooling-off period.
- Suppliers are required to include a ‘cooling-off period’ in direct marketing transactions. Cooling-off periods generally span five (5) business days.
- Consumers have the right to cancel agreements within the cooling-off period, without providing reasons or incurring penalties for doing so.
- Suppliers are required to return payments received from consumers, within 15 business days of receiving the cancellation notice.
Very importantly, you have the right to return goods and seek redress 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.
The Consumer Act protects us in many ways. We should make time to acquaint ourselves with it and let work for us when we need it. Knowledge empowers.