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The importance of understanding the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) - Johan van Deventer

Updated: Aug 23, 2022

Have you ever purchased a beautiful shawl online only to be left with an ugly dishcloth once your package had been delivered? Or maybe ordered lollipops for your kid’s birthday party and ended up with a box full of crushed candy.

Technology and globalisation have made great strides in the goods and services available to a consumer. One cannot fathom that only fifty years ago, cellphones were a rare occurrence. However, the fast-paced consumer industry, though extremely convenient, can ever so often leave a

consumer feeling ‘cat-fished’ so to speak. The good news is that as South Africans, we have recourse in the form of the Consumer Protection Act (CPA).

The CPA sets out the minimum requirements to ensure adequate consumer protection in South Africa. All suppliers of goods and services within South Africa need to comply with the requirements

set out in the Act. Certain exceptions to compliance such as the State are identified in the Act.

The aim of the Act are as follows:

· Establish national standards to ensure consumer protection

· Promote a fair and sustainable marketplace for consumer products and services

· Promote responsible behaviour by consumers

· Make provision for improved standards of consumer information as well as prohibit unfair marketing and business practices

· Establish the National Consumer Commission

Any individual consumer acting in his or her own capacity, authorised to act on behalf of another or representing the interests of a group of people, may lodge a complaint in terms of the CPA. The CPA gives effect to the consumer rights enshrined in the Bill of Rights, including the right to fair and honest dealing, fair and honest marketing, reasonable terms and conditions, the right to equality in the marketplace and protection from discriminatory business practice. The right to protection against discrimination ensures equality (a constitutional value), in that no supplier may limit access of their goods and services or prioritise certain groups of consumers over others when marketing and selling their products. Consumers are also given the right to query the quality of the goods supplied to them in terms of the Act. Complaints need to be lodged with the National Consumer Commission who will then refer the said complaint to the Equality court.

The Consumer Protection Act and the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) both emphasise the fact that a consumer cannot be forced into unsolicited direct marketing, has the option to opt-out of such marketing and cannot be forced to enter into supplier agreements with third parties. Given these similarities, the Information Compliance Department at LabourNet has opted to offer our newly launched CPA product as a value-add to all POPI retainer clients. This add-on will save a company/client both time and money by directly assisting the company in becoming compliant with both Acts at once, as well as indirectly assisting the said company by giving them the

necessary tools to watch out for ‘red flags’ in respect of daily interactions with their own clients and suppliers.

It is important for businesses as well as individuals to understand that the CPA has far reaching consequences related to our everyday interactions. Whether it be cancelling a reservation or renewing a fixed-term agreement, the Act has you covered. There is even provision made for a right

to request pre-authorisation for maintenance or repair services, a simple step that if not utilised often leads to major inconvenience for the consumer.

In addition to making life more convenient, gaining a good understanding of the Act serves as a deterrent for the supplier in respect of reputational damage. Remember, if your customer orders ice-cream and your driver delivers milkshake instead, you are not likely to secure any long time business.

There has been a global rise in health consciousness among the average consumer. As medical and environmental research advances, we (the consumer) have started taking notice of the fine print on our purchases. The Consumer Protection Act requires suppliers and service providers to display labelling and descriptions on their packaging that are not misleading to their consumers. Trademark protection is also covered in the Act.

In conclusion, understanding the Consumer Protection Act is imperative in order to facilitate good business, leisure, and many other interactions. So when that anniversary diamond ring that you ordered starts looking suspiciously like a cubic zirconia, remember that LabourNet and the Consumer Protection Act have you covered!


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