Consumer protection act: Protecting you

2011-04-02 00:00

THE Consumer Protection Act came into effect yesterday, giving consumers greater protection when they purchase anything from food to clothes to cars.

Here are some of the key provisions of the act.

 

Warranties

The act brings into force a statutory warranty that overrides manufacturer’s or retailers’ warranties, which become irrelevant as the act provides a six-month warranty for goods from the date of purchase.

 

When can goods be returned?

There are certain circumstances that apply when you return goods to suppliers to be refunded. These include:

• where you bought goods after being approached directly via sms, e-mail or in person;

• where the goods were ordered from a description or sample and different goods are supplied;

• if you told the supplier you were buying goods for a specific purpose, but the goods are not fit for that purpose.

In order to get the refund you will need to adhere to time limits and should not use or alter the goods, other than to determine whether they fulfil the requisite purpose. Suppliers can make deductions from the refund for restoring or packaging costs incurred.

Consumers have up to six months to return goods which are materially defective. For example, if you buy a fridge that does not freeze food to the extent that it can be preserved, you can return it to the supplier for repair, replacement or a refund.

 

Late delivery

Suppliers of goods and services must stick to agreed dates, times and places for delivery of goods unless they advise you of unavoidable delays. If your plumber agrees to repair your geyser at 8:30 am on Monday morning and arrives at 12.30 pm on Wednesday, you can choose to accept the services or cancel the agreement. Wrongly delivered goods are regarded as unsolicited and must be taken back by the supplier.

 

How to avoid nasty surprises when getting the invoice for repair and maintenance services

Whenever you ask someone to repair or maintain your property, such as broken appliances or even car services, ask for a quote. The supplier can no longer charge more than the agreed charge for its services. If the repairs exceed that estimate, the supplier must get further approval before charging for the excess.

 

Unwanted marketing approaches

Suppliers may not contact you at home at night, on Saturday afternoons, Sundays or public holidays. You have the right to refuse direct marketing.

 

Consumer contracts

Onerous clauses must be explained in plain and understandable language.

As a general rule contracts must be fair, just and reasonable. Nasty clauses can no longer be hidden in the small print.

It will be worthwhile to familiarise yourself with the prohibited terms. These terms may not be available to suppliers. In particular the commonly used voetstoots or “as is” clause can now only be used when defects are specifically disclosed.

 

Cancelling a reservation

Suppliers can only charge a reasonable cancellation fee if you cancel your advance booking or reservation. If for example you have booked into a hotel, the hotel must make reasonable efforts to fill your spot and save you the costs. If they cannot, the fee must take into account the period between your cancellation and the time of your reservation. If you cancel due to a death or hospitalisation, no fee may be charged.

 

SMS competitions

The sms entry charge is limited. Competitions must be honest and transparent and should not mislead entrants into believing prizes are available when they are not.

These are just a few of the rights we now all have as consumers. The act provides a good basis for consumers to exercise their rights but it requires you to take the initiative.

• Tessa Stuart is an associate at Deneys Reitz Inc.

THE Consumer Protection Act (CPA), which will have a major impact on both businesses and consumers, came into effect yesterday. The National Consumer Commission which was recently officially opened, has been tasked with enforcing and implementing of the CPA. For further information contact the National Consumer Commission at 012 394 1066, fax at 012 394 2066 or e-mail jmodiba@thencc.co.za. The Department of Trade and Industry’s Consumer Protection offices in KwaZulu-Natal are located in Durban and can be reached on 031 310 5300.

 

6 months

Consumers have up to six months to return goods which are materially defective. For example, if you buy a fridge that does not freeze food to the extent that it can be preserved, you can return it to the supplier for repair, replacement or a refund.

 

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