The National Consumer Protection Act
The South African National Consumer Protection Act (CPA) came into effect on 1 April 2011. The Act is aimed at promoting fairness, openness and good business practice between the suppliers of goods or services and consumers of such goods and services. The Act only applies to contracts signed after 1 April, and won't affect anything signed before then. All suppliers of goods and services need to comply with the Act.
What is covered by the CPA?
The CPA covers a wide range of factors aimed at protecting consumers. Below are some of the key aspects covered by the Act:
- Cooling-off periods
Section 16 of the Act provides for a cooling-off period of five business days in instances where transactions came from direct marketing - in other words, transactions which were not initiated by the consumer. The five business day period will commence five days after the day on which the transaction or agreement was concluded, or the day on which the goods or services were delivered to the consumer.
The Act regulates the term, renewal and cancellation of fixed-term contracts. In terms of section 14 of the Act, there can be no automatic renewal of a fixed term contract.
The Act does not contain a provision for information to be in an official language. However, section 22 requires that all information should be in plain language. The Act also requires that the language used should be appropriate to the group that the goods or services are aimed at.
- Overselling and overbooking
The Act provides for the "reasonableness" test for overselling and overbooking. In terms of this test a supplier may not accept payment for goods or services where it has no reasonable intention to supply the goods or services, or where it intends to supply goods or services that are materially different to the goods or services for which the consumer has paid.
- Implied warranty of quality
The Act provides for an implied warranty of quality. In terms of this warranty the producer/importer, distributor and retailer each warrant that the goods comply with the requirements and standards outlined in the Act.
- Prepaid certificates, credits and vouchers
The Act states that gift or similar vouchers expire either upon redemption or after three years.
What are consumer rights?
The Consumer Protection Act gives eight rights to consumers:
1. The right to consumer education
- Consumers must be able to access the knowledge and skills needed to make informed and confident choices about goods and services, while being aware of basic consumer rights and responsibilities and how to act on them.
2. The right to disclosure and information
- Consumers must be provided with the facts needed to make informed choices and ensure their protection against dishonest or misleading advertising and labelling.
3. The right to choice
- Consumers should be able to choose from a range of products and services, offered at competitive prices, with the assurance of satisfactory quality.
4. The right to representation
- Consumer interests should be represented in the making and execution of government policy, and development of products and services.
5. The right to redress
- Consumers must receive a fair settlement of just claims, including compensation for misrepresentation, or shabby goods or services.
6. The right to safety
- From a trade and industry perspective, consumers should be protected against production processes, and products and services that are dangerous to health or life.
7. The right to a healthy environment
- Consumers should be able to live and work in an environment that is not threatening to the well-being of present and future generations.
8. The right to access basic needs and services
- Consumers should have access to basic goods and services, such as adequate food, clothing, housing, health care, education, clean water and sanitation.
The Western Cape Office of the Consumer Protector is a provincial protection agency that provides information, education and redress to consumers within the province. You can contact the Western Cape Office of the Consumer Protector for more information on the CPA and to lodge a complaint against a supplier within the Western Cape.
Western Cape Office of the Consumer Protector
Consumer Advice Offices
80 St George's Mall,
PO Box 979,
Cape Town, 8000
Toll Free: 0800 007 081
Fax: 021 483 5872
The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI)
For more information on the CPA and to lodge a complaint against a supplier outside the Western Cape you can contact the:
DTI Consumer Affairs Committee/Customer Contact Centre
Tel: 086 184 3384
Western Cape Office of the Consumer Protector;
The Department of Trade and Industry;
Accountancy South Africa
Read more about the National Consumer Protection Act