South Africans' consumer rights will be among the best protected in the world if a new piece of legislation aimed at promoting a fair and equitable marketplace for consumers is accepted in its present form.
Consumer groups have welcomed the Consumer Protection Bill, which they say will promote international consumer rights such as the right to access safe products, to choose, be informed and obtain redress, including the speedy resolution of complaints which had previously ended up in court.
The bill aims to protect all consumers, in particular the previously disadvantaged, disabled and illiterate, who often fall prey to unfair and deceptive business practices in the marketplace.
It prohibits unconscionable behaviour by businesses, including one-sided contracts, misleading and unfair business practices, and protects consumers from unsafe and inferior products.
Practices such as bait marketing to attract consumers into a store for non-existent specials, misleading marketing, telling customers untruthfully that they have won a prize in a competition they have never entered, or where payment must be made to enter, are also prohibited by the bill.
Stores will be prohibited from discriminating against consumers based on race or economic status by charging different prices or providing different quality goods or services.
The bundling of products is restricted so that consumers will enjoy the right to choose alternatives instead of being locked in with a particular company.
Additional proposals include a minimum warranty period of three to six months on products; restrictions on work-from-home schemes; a 10-day cooling off period for franchise purchase agreements; grey or reconditioned goods must be clearly marked; a five-year expiry date for credit and gift vouchers; a do-not-call pre-emptive block register for consumers who do want to be targeted by direct marketers; and it gives the minister powers to restrict the days and times such calls can be made.
It provides for consumers to receive refunds with interest for pre-booked services, which will have major implications for airlines.
The bill gives consumers the right to cancel deliveries without penalty if a company does not comply with the agreed delivery date and location.
full story from IOL here