Consumers protected by new law

By admin
01 April 2010

We’re the clients and should be king. But sometimes we feel more like victims – unappreciated and abused by businesses that bulldoze us in their relentless drive to make more money.

Fortunately there’s light at the end of the tunnel – South Africa is getting a new consumer protection law that will make many dubious service practices unlawful. And when it comes into effect in October transgressors who try their luck at ripping off consumers will be in deep trouble.

We asked advocate Neville Melville, a former ombudsman for the banking industry and author of a new book, The Consumer Protection Act made easy, to tell us what consumers should be on the lookout for. Here are a few key changes.

MARKETING

In future when goods or services are advertised or marketed it must be done responsibly and in a way that’s fair and honest to clients.

- If a discounted product is advertised the shop must have it available or offer you a comparable product at the discounted price.

- If a cellphone or credit card company calls with offers you can demand they stop this. You can also specify in advance you don’t want to be bothered with advertising.

AGREEMENTS

The new law also stipulates who may enter into an agreement and how, what the agreement must say and how it can be amended or annulled.

- In a case of direct marketing – where the seller approached the consumer – the consumer may cancel a sale by notifying the seller within five working days and returning the goods if already in their possession. Consumers won’t have to give reasons or pay a cancellation fee.

GOODS AND SERVICES

- Customers have the right to look before they buy and if that glass ornament falls and breaks – well, accidents happen. Unless a customer’s action was gross negligence, malicious damage to property or of a criminal nature he may not be forced to pay for it – even if there’s a notice saying, “If you break it you pay for it.”

* Read a more in-depth article in the print edition of this week’s YOU (8 April) and stand a chance of winning a copy of Neville Melville’s book.

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