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Consumer Protection Act

 

The Consumer Protection Act 68 of 2008 (the Act) has recently been passed into law in South Africa, and this is good news for the consumer who is now afforded additional protection when purchasing goods or procuring services.

The purpose of the Act is to promote fair business practices and to protect consumers against deceptive, misleading, unfair or fraudulent conduct.

Listed below are a few of the ways that the Act may affect and benefit you, the consumer:
 

1. A supplier may not enter an agreement to supply goods or provide a service at a price that is unfair, unreasonable or unjust or on terms that are unfair, unreasonable or unjust.

Furthermore, a court may declare any such ‘unfair or unjust ‘ agreement or contract between a consumer and a supplier null and void, regardless of whether is has been signed or not. 
 
2. Goods may be returned by the consumer, with a refund from the supplier, in the following circumstances:

a) Where the consumer has informed the supplier of the purpose for which he intends to use those goods, and the consumer then finds them unsuitable for that use.
b) Where the consumer did not have an opportunity examine the goods before delivery, and the goods are not of the type and quality reasonable contemplated.
c) In the case of direct marketing, the consumer has a 5 day ‘cooling off’ period in which he may rescind an agreement. No reason need be given. Good news for the impulse buyer!
d) A consumer may now have up to 6 months to return faulty or unsafe goods.
 

3. With regards to repairs, a company must provide you with an estimate for any work proposed – which must be approved – and the company may not charge more than the estimate.
 
4. With regards to contracts between supplier and consumer, suppliers will no longer be entitled to automatically renew contracts, instead they must give the consumer the option to renew. This means you can longer be automatically billed for that gym or cellphone contract you thought had expired.

In addition you are now able to cancel a contract at any time should you wish. Simply provide the supplier 20 days written notice in order to terminate. This means you don’t have to wait for the full 12 or 24 months to end. 
 
5.

The Act also introduces the concept of ‘strict liability’, which provides that any supplier in the chain of supply can be claimed against regardless whether the supplier has acted negligently or whether they had any direct contact with the consumer.
 

6. The Act applies not only to movable property, for example a television,  but to immovable property, such as a house, too. However, here the Act will affect ‘suppliers’ in the form of developers and estate agents and not the regular person selling his home.
 

To draw one conclusion from the above: we are moving away from the era of the cautious buyer to the era of the cautious seller.
 


Should you have any queries or disputes arising from the new Act, please feel free to contact us at Tate, Nolan and Knight

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