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5 Things South Africans need to know about the Consumer Protection Act

The Consumer Protection Act of South Africa, which came into effect in 2011, has been highly instrumental in achieving higher levels of consumer protection. For years on end, credit agreements would largely favour credit providers and consumers often got the short end of the stick, without much protection when agreements weren’t fulfilled.

According to this act, consumers have rights to confidentiality, access to information, disclosure, fairness, transparency, safety and redress.

Many South Africans have become more familiar with how the Consumer Protection Act works.

What South Africans need to know about the Consumer Protection Act:

Clear Identification
Consumers need to know that any salesperson that visits them is required to wear an identification device such as a badge. This device must be clear and legible.

Faulty goods policy
Consumers have the right to return goods that are faulty or unsafe. This must be done within six months, with the option to repair, replace or fund in full.

Contracts must be renewed legally
In the past, many consumers were tied into contracts without any escape clause. Many of them found themselves unable to get out of contracts because they were automatically renewed on their behalf, without much negotiation.

With the introduction of the Consumer Protection Act, contract renewals no longer became automatic. As a consumer, when a contract is due for renewal, companies are obliged to contact you in writing before any renewal. This notice should be done within 40 and 80 business days before the contract expires. As part of the process, companies need to provide consumers with the option to continue their contract, change its terms or to cancel should they so wish.

Buying items online is much simpler
The internet has made it much easier for people to transact, to communicate and to gain more access to information. More people are using the internet to shop as well.

For a while, the trickiest part was buying goods online and matching them to actual items that are delivered. Fortunately for South Africans, the Consumer Protection Act offers more protection for online purchases.

According to this Act, when consumers order something online, companies are obliged to deliver items that match the sample or description of the product. Companies should also ensure that the items should also be delivered at an agreed date, time and place. If this part of the agreement is not kept to, consumers have the right to cancel the agreement. Should they choose, they can accept the agreement.

Cancellation of booking or reservations has changed
Many consumers have faced situations where they have made a booking or reservation and have had to cancel because of circumstances beyond their control. Before the CPA was introduced, they had no recourse. Firstly, if you cancel a booking or reservation, the booking or reservation fee that is charged must be reasonable. Consumers cannot be charged a cancellation fee by a company of the reason for the cancellation is because of the death or hospitalisation of the person who made the booking.