When the Consumer Protection Bill was signed into law recently, the Acting Deputy Director General in the Department of Trade and Industry, Ms Nomfundo Maseti, said that 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.
The aim of the Act therefore is to create and promote an economic environment that supports and strengthens a culture of consumer rights and responsibilities. The Act will therefore have a huge impact on every business in South Africa. Even businesses that deal exclusively with other big businesses will be liable to end user consumers under the product liability provisions.
Although the Act will only be fully effective from October 2010, businesses should start to familiarise themselves with the provisions of the Act and effect the necessary amendments to their contracts.
In short, the following is a given:
- While several countries have consumer protection legislation, South African consumers will now be some of the most protected consumers in the world.
- The consumer will have the right to inspect goods and this may affect the packaging of goods.
- Fixed term agreements like cell phone and gym contracts can now be terminated by the consumer provided certain conditions are met.
- All agreements with consumers must be in plain and understandable language.
- Warranties and indemnities are imposed on certain persons in the supply chain.
- Exemption clauses will need to be re-visited ,contracts vetted and amended to ensure compliance with the fair just and reasonable term requirement
- The Courts will have the power to order businesses to redraft agreements , terms of sale etc and must interpret standard contracts in favour of the consumer.
- The Act will affect businesses? refund policies.
- The way businesses market their goods or services will be affected.
- Consumer activism is promoted in various ways.
- Registered names and trade names must comply with the Act.
This workshop will investigate and analyse the ramifications of the Consumer Protection Act for companies operating in South Africa.