This post was written by Sikelelwa Gogo.
It’s a New Year and South Africa is abuzz with excitement about all the impending changes coming our way – everything from the Guatrain to the World Cup. These 2 events alone are going to have a huge impact on socio-economic landscape. General South Africans, and businesses alike are looking for opportunities everywhere. But whether we strike it lucky or not, there are huge changes coming which will make all of us happy regardless.
On the legal front, there are exciting legal and policy changes that will have a positive affect on us all. I want to specifically give you the low down on the Consumer Protection Act and its practical implications. The Act is coming into effect in October 2010, and will apply to all goods and services nationally promoted or supplied. Here are some examples of what we can expect from the Act: No more small print, complicated legal jargon. All agreements, terms and conditions must be plain and understandable language;
Automatic renewal of contracts will no longer be allowed, as companies will have to give you notice before hand. I’m sure most of automatically think of the our cell phone contracts, and the month to month we are automatically put on;
- Overselling will be a thing of the past. Can you say ‘no more being put on standby’ for a ticket you’ve bought and paid for in advance. The concept of overselling on airlines is something I’ve never fully gotten my head around. This Act will now protect the consumer, in that not only will the airlines be required to refund your ticket with interest, but they will have to pay consequential damages for any economic loss resulting from the breach. So if you miss that event you had booked and paid for, or that connecting flight to your next destination- the airline will have to refund you for that too;
- No more bundled products or services. The easiest example of this is looking at a mobile phone bundles, or laptop and modem bundles, etc. The Act enables you to look at the whole package, and ask for only the modem, without the laptop or gigs. You will be able to buy whatever product you want separately and not be penalized for it;
- With regards to the market, if a product is mistakenly a marked cheaper price, as a consumer you are entitled to pay that advertised amount. So if a product is R700.00 but inadvertently marked R70.00, you are entitled to buy it for R70.00;
- No more misleading advertising. Labeling must be truthful or a consumer can return the goods for a full refund within 10 days; and
- Perhaps the most controversial of all the changes is product liability. A consumer can now hold a retailer, producer, distributor or importer liable for any harm caused by their goods. This can stem from a number of factors such as- unsafe products, products with defects, or inadequate instructions or warning- regardless of whether there’s been any negligence on their part. Whoever sells the product to the customer must deal with your complaint themselves and not ‘pass the buck’.
On the other hand the Act is also careful to also protect the rights of companies providing the goods or services to consumer. Consumers must be careful with the following:
- Not to make any public allegations without proof;
- Maintain confidentiality until complaint finalized; and
- Be careful of what you say, as assumptions can lead to liability for damage caused to companies’ goodwill. Blue chip companies, e.g Pick n Pay has a lot of Goodwill behind them, and liability for something like that could be.
Exciting times, with all the above how can we deny that South Africa truly rocks!
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