World Consumer Rights Day
On 15 March 2014, South Africa, along with the rest of the international community will celebrate World Consumer Rights Day.
World Consumer Rights Day is an awareness day, first celebrated in 1983 as an annual occasion for coordinating citizen action and support within the international consumer arena. The day is an opportunity for promoting the basic rights of all consumers, demanding that those rights are respected and protected and raising concerns about the market abuses and social injustices which may undermine them.
The primary purpose of the Consumer Protection Act is to prevent unfair business practices that have been prevalent in the market. It also prevents the exploitation of consumers and creates an economic environment that supports and strengthens a culture of consumer rights and responsibilities.
The new Consumer Protection Act serves to:
- Promote a fair, accessible and sustainable marketplace for consumer products and services;
- Establish national norms and standards to ensure consumer protection;
- Make provision for improved standards of consumer information, to prohibit certain unfair marketing and business practices;
- Promote responsible consumer behaviour;
- Establish the National Consumer Commission; and
- Replace, in a new and simplified manner, existing provisions from five acts, including the Consumer Affairs (Unfair Business Practices) Act of 1988; Trade Practices Act of 1976; Sales and Services Matters Act of 1964; Price Control Act of 1964; and Merchandise Marks Act of 1941 (specifically Sections 2-13, and 16-17)
The Act bring's huge relief for consumers in terms of responsible and quality consumer services. It is very important for people offering consumer advice to be aware of how the new act is going to benefit consumers in terms of redress.
In short, the Consumer Protection Act is based on nine pillars that ensure that our consumers are protected:
- Right to equality - The Act prohibits any form of unfair discrimination in line with the Equality Act and the Constitution.
- Right to privacy - The Act limits the use of consumers' personal information and makes provision for the establishment of a registry by the Consumer Protection Commission where consumers can register their names to be protected against telemarketing.
- Right to choose - The Act prohibits the automatic renewal of fixed term agreements and makes provision for quotes for maintenance and repair services.
- Right to disclosure of information - Product labels should not to be misleading.
- Right to fair and responsible marketing - The Act prohibits unfair marketing practices, such as bait or negative option marketing.
- Right to fair and honest dealing - The Act prohibits overselling and overbooking of services.
- Right to fair, just and reasonable terms and conditions - The Act prohibits unfair, unreasonable or unjust contract terms.
- Right to fair value, good quality and safety - The Act facilitates access to quality service, safe goods/services and redress.
- Right to accountability from Suppliers - The Act protects consumers' rights with regard to prepaid certificates, credits and vouchers and access to prepaid services and service facilities.
The Office of the Consumer Protector can be contacted on the toll free number, 0800 007 081 for any requests or to lodge a consumer complaint. Knowing your rights will help you to protect yourself.