Consumer Protection Act
A fair deal for consumers
From October this year, the Consumer Protection Act will come into effect to ensure a fairer deal for consumers. The main aim of the Act is to protect people who buy products and services by preventing suppliers from misleading or harming them.
Before we had a Consumer Protection Act, it was difficult for South African consumers to lodge complaints about goods and services they bought. The complaining process was long and expensive and many consumers just accepted poor service or products from suppliers and retailers.
The Act will help to ensure that consumers are treated fairly when they have problems with the products or services they buy.
It will also enable poor people who have limited education to get better service from suppliers.
In line with the Act, suppliers who do not comply with the Act, may be fined up to R1 million or ten per cent of their annual profit depending on whichever is higher.
A consumer is an individual member of the general public, buying or using goods, property, or services, for pirvate purposes.
Consumers’ rights under the new Act include the right of equality in the consumer market, the right to privacy, the right to choose, the right to information, the right to fair and responsible marketing, the right to honest dealing and fair agreements, and the right to fair value, good quality and safety.
For example, one of the provisions of the Act is that suppliers and retailers must make sure that the labels on their products are not misleading. The information on product labels must also be written in plain language so that anyone can understand what it means. This applies to packaging, as well as package inserts.
In line with the Act, consumers will have the right to return goods for a full refund if the labels on products are misleading. The Act also allows ordinary consumers to check products or goods before they buy them.
In addition to labels, advertising or marketing of products may not be misleading and must clearly state what the products can be used for. For example the use of words like “healthy” or “pain relief” may be taken as meaning the products in question are of medicinal use.
For more information, call the South African National Consumer Union on 012 4282 7122, or call the dti’s Customer Contact Centre on 08612 8432 384, or send them a fax: 08612 8432 888