Know your rights as a consumer

2010-01-16 15:04

THIS year will see the roll-out of the Consumer Protection Act, the

ultimate protection for South African consumers.

Signed into law in April last year, the primary purpose of the act

is to prevent exploitation or harming of ­consumers.

The Department of Trade and ­Industry says the act will promote a

fair, efficient and transparent marketplace for consumers and businesses. But

protection under the act means understanding basic rights as a consumer and

mastering the skill of complaining effectively.

Consumer rights are not the same as human rights, but the two

complement each other in many ways. Basic consumer rights are:

  • The right to satisfaction of basic

    needs: Consumers have a right to ­basic goods and services. Examples

    include adequate food, water, shelter, clothing and health care.

  • The right to safety: Consumers should

    be protected against unsafe goods as these could possibly lead to destruction of

    property, injury or death.

  • The right to be informed: Consumers

    are entitled to complete information on price, quantity and ­ingredients from

    providers of goods and services.

  • The right to choose: Consumers have

    the right to choose from a variety of quality goods and services selling at

    competitive prices.

  • The right to be heard: Consumers have

    the right to be heard on ­issues, policies, plans, programmes and ­decisions

    which concern them.

  • The right to redress: Consumers have

    the right to redress on their grievances over sub-standard, ­unsafe and unduly

    expensive goods and services.

  • The right to a healthy and sustainable

    environment: Consumers have the right to live and work in an environment which

    does nPICK AND CHot threaten their health and life and ­also does not pose any

    danger to present and future generations. If a product fails to live up to the

    user’s expectations, it is within a consumer’s rights to complain.

By making use of the following guidelines, consumers can get the

results they deserve:

  • Try at least three times to get a

    settlement, using the phone.

  • Keep a record of all verbal contact

    with the service provider’s representatives – the date of contact, the name of

    the representative you dealt with, details of the complaint and the feedback

    received, if any.

  • If the problem is not resolved despite

    separate contacts, submit the complaint in writing. If you do not get a response

    or the response is not what you feel is equitable, contact any office that has a

    consumer advocacy programme. City Press ­offers that kind of service.

A stressful dispute-resolution process can be avoided by:

  • Complaining as soon as possible. Be

    specific, back up your ­complaint with valid receipts and explain exactly what

    you hope to achieve by complaining.

  • Be assertive and polite and follow up

    the complaint after a reasonable length of time if you have not received a


  • Always keep copies of the letters sent

    to you.

The list of organisations that act as watchdogs includes the

National Consumer Forum, the Department of Trade and Industry and provincial

offices of the Consumer Forum.

Additional information is available on the National Consumer

Forum’s website:

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