Many people who buy and sell everyday know of the Consumer Protection Act, yet so few really know what it entails. Women are most likely bigger consumers than men, and thus it is imperative that we familiarise ourselves as to our entitlements under the law when it comes to our purchases. In a nutshell, the Consumer Protection Act is a piece of legislation designed to promote fair, accessible and sustainable marketplace for consumer products and services and for that purpose to establish national norms and standards relating to consumer protection.
Here are the most important and helpful rights that you as a consumer could need to ensure a friendly and fair shopping experience. Many of these, you didn’t even know existed! Make sure you use them the next time you find yourself in one of these situations.
Your right to high-quality goods and services
- Suppliers (sellers) are not allowed to vary the quality of their goods and services in a discriminatory manner. Consumers have the right to query the inferior quality of goods and services. If you are used to a certain standard relating to a particular good and the standard does not meets the status quo, you may query the good, return or exchange it-or whatever policy the supplier stipulates.
Your right to fair pricing of goods and services
- Suppliers are not permitted to charge unfair prices for the same goods and services. If a price appears to be unfair, unreasonable or unjust, a court may make any order that it considers being just and reasonable; such as, the return of money or property, or awarding compensation to the consumer (purchaser).
- Another interesting interpretation of this right is that a retailer (seller) must adequately display the price of goods on sale and he or she is not entitled to charge a higher price than the displayed price. The consequence of this being that if more than one price for the same item is displayed concurrently; the supplier is bound by the lowest price. The only exception to this section is where the displayed price contains an obvious error or has been tampered with.
- Suppliers are also required to specify the duration of any promotions in catalogues or brochures, failing which consumers have the right to purchase the goods or services at the specified prices.
Your right to choose or examine goods, even after purchase and delivery
- Suppliers have the right to charge consumers for loss or damage of property/goods, if this was a result of gross negligence, recklessness or deliberate actions. On the other hand, consumers have the right to refuse displayed items or opened goods, and request unopened or new goods. Consumers are also entitled to reject goods if they do not correspond with pre-approved samples. Suppliers are required to provide consumers with a reasonable opportunity to examine goods purchased or delivered.
Your right to protection in customer loyalty programmes
- This right pertains to all customers who are holders of Clicks, Woolworths or any other company cards offering loyalty programmes. Persons must not offer participation in a loyalty programme, or offer any loyalty credit or award with the intention of not providing it or providing it in a manner other than as offered or advertised. Any document setting out an offer must clearly state the following:
- The nature of the programme, credit or award being offered
- Any goods or services to which the offer relates
- The steps required by consumers to participate in the programme or receive any benefits in terms of the programme; and
- Any contact details where consumers may gain access to the programme, or any loyalty credit or awards in terms of the programme.
Your right to protection in lay-bye agreements
Consumers are entitled to the following, in lay-bye agreements:
- If the suppliers fail to deliver any goods, these suppliers must – at the discretion of the consumers – supply equivalent or superior products. Alternatively, suppliers may or should provide a full refund of money paid, plus interest – and thereafter keep their deposits in an interest-bearing account.
Your right to implied warranty of quality
- In any transaction or agreement concerning the supply of goods to consumers, it is an implied provision that the producer or importer, distributor and retailer each warrant that the goods comply with the requirements and standards of being safe, of good quality and durable. Consumers are permitted to return goods to suppliers, without penalty and at the suppliers’ risk and expense, within a period of six (6) months after delivery of such goods. If the goods are of inferior quality, unsafe or defective. Suppliers are obliged to refund, repair or replace the failed, unsafe and defective goods.
Now that you know your rights, as a consumer, what can you do if you encounter any of the above situations?
Should the retail assistant give you any hassles, the next point of departure would be to contact/complain to a supervisor or a manager at best who is usually well acquainted with all the important provisions of the Consumer Protection Act or those that relate to his business/company. Should you be unsuccessful in the matter, you may find the following contact services useful:
o Consumer Help Line, via the dti Customer Contact Centre: 0861 843 384
o the dti Office of Consumer Protection (OCP) : (012) 394 1436 / 1558 /1076
o the dti E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
o the dti Website: www.thedti.gov.za
o National Consumer Tribunal (NCT): (012) 663 5615
o NCT E-mail: Registry@thenct.org.za
o NCT Website: www.thenct.org.za
By: Abongile Dee-Dee Qolohle
Credentials: BCom Law, University of Pretoria