CPA: Consumer is king

consumer protection INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS Western Cape MEC for Economic Development and Tourism Alan Winde says the new Consumer Act means that consumers will actually be able to enjoy their rights. Picture: Cindy Waxa

In two days not only will it be disrespectful to ignore the rights of consumers, but illegal too, says Western Cape Economic Development and Tourism MEC Alan Winde.

The new Consumer Protection Act, which comes into effect from Friday, will “radically overhaul the manner and form in which business is conducted”.

“One of the important elements introduced by the act is the acknowledgement of the rights that all of us as consumers will now be able to enjoy,” Winde said this week.

“Previous legislation ignored these principles and for the first time we have statutory recognition of our right to confidentiality, information, disclosure, fairness, transparency, choice, safety and redress.

“From April 1 onwards, it will not only be disrespectful, but illegal, to ignore consumers’ rights,” said Winde.

The Consumer Protection Forum also said that South African consumers would now benefit from increased levels of protection, mainly because of regulatory measures introduced across different industries.

“Good progress to protect the consumer has been made on all fronts,” forum spokesman Peter Setou said. “Whether it is a dispute over contracts or complaints about the quality of products and services, consumers are getting better access to protection, information and advice than ever before.”

The new act brings with it the National Consumer Commission, a body launched this month to ensure consumer complaints are heeded.

Mamodupi Mohlala, who heads the commission, said it would herald a new era for consumer protection in South Africa.

“Today is a proud day for us as the National Consumer Commission, for we are at the door step of a major consumer revolution. This revolution is being ushered in by the promulgation and coming into operation of the Consumer Protection Act on April 1,” Mohlala said at the launch.

“This is an act that for the first time protects consumer rights in an uncompromising manner in the South African landscape.”

Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies said the effective empowerment of consumers would encourage enterprises to improve their products and services.

“The Consumer Commission will be a key pillar in implementing the consumer protection legislation.

The act requires that the commission plays an active and proactive role in strengthening consumer protection.

“The act makes provision for a comprehensive and overarching consumer law of general application that will regulate the interaction between businesses and consumers in the marketplace and provides more protection to consumers that was provided for in previous legislation,” Davies said at the launch.

Examples of how the act will affect consumers include:

- Returns and refunds

It’s all about you in the new act, especially when it comes to returning goods or asking for refunds. Consumers will now have up to six months to return faulty or unsafe goods. If the product fails again within the next three months, the supplier is again obliged to replace it or refund you.

- Deliveries

Ordering online? Goods will have to be delivered at an agreed date, time and place. If not, you will be free to accept or cancel the agreement. Companies are also obliged to deliver goods that match the sample or description of the product.

- SMS competitions

A small victory, but a victory nonetheless. As of March 31, companies will not be allowed to charge you an exorbitant R5 or R10 to enter an SMS or MMS competition, but will have to stick to the usual rates.

- Repairs

Companies will have to provide you with an estimate for the work - which you must approve - and cannot charge you more than that. If more work is required above and beyond the estimate, they first have to get the go-ahead from you.

- Privacy

Gone are the dreaded telemarketer calls and junk mail flyers. According to the new act, sales people cannot bombard you with calls and leaflets at certain times of the day and certain days of the year.

- Cooling-off period

According to this clause, you will have five business days to change your mind about that mid-life-crisis Harley or the seaside cottage you fell in love with. Notify the company in writing, and they will have 15 days to pay you back in full.

- Contracts

Thanks to the new act, automatic contract renewals will be no more. Companies will have to contact you in writing - between 40 and 80 business days before your contract expires.

- Voetstoots

From March 31, suppliers, particularly in the car industry, will have to let you know of all defects of your purchase and you have to agree to buying the product in that condition.

- Reservations

This one is still on you. Cancel a booking or reservation, and the supplier is entitled to charge you a “reasonable” cancellation fee. The “reasonableness” depends on how early you cancel and if the supplier can fill your spot. - The Mercury


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Susan, wrote

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03:52pm on 30 March 2011
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@mospace: they can only return damaged or faulty goods that have not performed as can be reasonably expected, i.e. one cannot return a sweater because it doesn't look the way you thought when you wear it.

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Graham F, wrote

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03:25pm on 30 March 2011
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RE Ringmaster - If you report a fault Telkom does not charge rental until it is restored but you must report it. Re Anonymous - telemarketers and call centres are not the same thing at all.

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Anonymous, wrote

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03:11pm on 30 March 2011
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Telemarketers cannot "bombard" you with calls at certain times of the day. That is very interesting. What I want to know is - what times of the day? Surely it just means that they will phone you at other times? There are people whose entire livelihood is from the call centres. What will happen to them?

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@Anonymous 12.37, wrote

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03:09pm on 30 March 2011
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Medical Aid is governed by the Council for Medical Schemes. You have a right to choose which ever medical aid you want, except in cases where it is compulsary for your to join your companys medical aid. You also have freedom of choice to choose the plan that is most beneficial to you. When the NHI comes into effect, you are free to join the gowwerment medical aid, and still go to the gowwermment hospitals. Its the Board of Trustees of the medical aid scheme who come up with the benefits and the contribution payable. This is okayed by the CMS. You cant pay for a Hyundai Atos and expect to drive a LEXUS........... You dont expect to pay for a Uno and

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mospace, wrote

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02:48pm on 30 March 2011
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fair enough for big retail stores,but for small privately owned shops with limited resources,this is the end.i myself have customers returning perfectly good merchandise after having worn it once & demanding their money back.how will i possibly survive if i accede to all their demands?

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Sinies, wrote

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02:04pm on 30 March 2011
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I can see a big hand in this from the insurance industry, all companies will now have to insure the risks involved - increase the cost of doing business. Will this law be used to close competition down - especially smaller companies? Massmart is already putting pressure on all local companies to comply with this law (in full) or being removed from their supplier list. Was the joblosses due to the extreme extend of this law considered. If it was - then ANC goverment is completely insensitive to the plight of the unemployed and totally out of touch with reality.

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Anonymous, wrote

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01:30pm on 30 March 2011
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remember, the consumer will end up paying more in the end

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Tenzi, wrote

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01:24pm on 30 March 2011
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With regards to the refund question - it is now up to you whether you get your money back or a repair or a replacement. The act is actually wonderful - and fair. If you're a good business with good customer service and morals and ethics you'll be fine. Consumers too have rights that are protected and now recourses that won't cost the earth

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Graham F, wrote

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01:21pm on 30 March 2011
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Good, its taken a long time to catch with a lot of the world. Does this mean that Woolworths will have to put prices on all their products?

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Ringmaster, wrote

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01:13pm on 30 March 2011
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Unfortunately, your municipality can charge you for refuse collection 4 times per month even if they only collect twice as municipalities are exempt. Can Telkom still charge you for a full month's line rental if your phone line was out of order for 12 of the month?

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Spoiler, wrote

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01:08pm on 30 March 2011
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This is good on the one hand but will also be a nightmare for years to come. Chancers will have a field day abusing the rights accorded in the Act and our overburdened courts are going to burst will all the resultant litigation. Lawyers are going to love it...

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Anon E Mouse, wrote

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01:05pm on 30 March 2011
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I hope these rights extend to tollroad users. It should be illegal to charge full fees if there are lane and speed restrictions due to roadworks or damage or if the road surface is damaged in any way. Vehicle damage due to potholes must be repaired FOC.

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Mahmood, wrote

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01:05pm on 30 March 2011
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Having this "right" does not mean "the customer is always right" for they rarely are. This article, and so many in various publications, make it appear sooo easy for complainers, when it is not. Man, are they in for a surprise! (Are the writers going to then re-track!?) Sure, it's going to be tough on all businesses, but, supposing the complainer satisfies the conditions (which are rarely read and understood), the businessman will be left with an open-box product which he has, in effect, bought from the complainer at a discount for opening the product. Well, I suppose a non-complaining customer will benefit from the discounted, open-box product.

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Cecile-Ann, wrote

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12:46pm on 30 March 2011
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Can't wait for this to come into law. I hope that good service from staff is also covered in this law as personal service is lacking in this country. I hope the same goes for the transport service - at the end of the day we are customers on trains and buses.

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Anonymous, wrote

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12:37pm on 30 March 2011
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Does this apply to Medical Aid's who at present are a law unto themselves

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Teestes, wrote

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12:35pm on 30 March 2011
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I am loving it

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Anonymous, wrote

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12:18pm on 30 March 2011
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WRT refunds and returns - a lot of shops do not give you your money back, instead you need to choose something within the store. What does the new CPA have to say on that?

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Rob, wrote

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12:17pm on 30 March 2011
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Is the SA post office subject to this law?

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Anonymous, wrote

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12:15pm on 30 March 2011
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It's about time! Telemarketers have expired their positions.

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Anonymous, wrote

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12:09pm on 30 March 2011
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I'm loving this! iT'S ABOUT TIME!

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