President Motlanthe approved Consumer Protection Bill
30 April 2009
President Kgalema Motlanthe has signed into law the Consumer Protection Bill. The primary purpose of the new Act is to prevent exploitation or harm on consumers and to promote the social well being of consumers. The Act seeks to create and promote an economic environment that supports and strengthens a culture of consumer rights and responsibilities, whilst through the measures adopted therein; it seeks to promote fair, efficient and transparent market place for consumers and business. The Consumer Protection Act will introduce general principles of consumer protection and serves as an overarching governing statement on consumer protection matters in South Africa.
The Acting Deputy Director General in the Department of Trade and Industry, Ms Nomfundo Maseti, says the primary purpose of the Act is to protect consumers from exploitation and unfair practices in the marketplace from unscrupulous businesses, and to empower consumers to make wise purchasing decisions. It achieves this by introducing, amongst others, a system of product liability and improved redress.
“Producers, distributors or suppliers, will be liable for any damages in the form of death, injury, loss, or damage to property and economic loss, to the consumer or third party. This Act decriminalises certain conduct and subjects it to administrative sanctions, while also enables consumers to demand refund if the goods are of inferior quality.
“Consumers may return the goods to the supplier, without penalty and at the supplier’s risk and expense, if the goods fail to meet the required standard”, added Maseti.
Consumers are now empowered to cancel contracts if not satisfied with the terms of contract. Further, consumers will have a final whether they would like their contracts to be renewed or not. Consumers will now be protected from the unscrupulous businesses that tend to induce them to waive the obligations and liability of the supplier in terms of agreement.
For the first time, the Act promotes consumer activism by providing for accreditation of consumer groups for lodging complaints on behalf of consumers and provide for possible financial support for activities such as consumer advice, education, publications, research and alternative dispute resolution through mediation or conciliation, noted Maseti.
For implementation purposes, the National Consumer Commission, which is an enforcement /investigative body on consumer protection issues, will be established after 12 months from the date of signing of the Bill by the President. The National Consumer Commission will commence implementation of the Act after the period of 18 months from the date of signing of the Bill by the President. It is envisaged that the provided time period will afford business reasonable time to align their trading practices for the purposes of complying with the Act.
The Act replaces, 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 Service Matters Act of 1964, Price Control Act of 1964, and Merchandise Marks Act of 1941 (specifically Sections 2-13, and 16-17).