Consumer act: the lowdown


It will make South African consumers among the best protected in the world – that’s what we’ve been promised. And now, after delays to iron out glitches with its practical application, the Consumer Protection Act will finally come into effect on 1 April.

The implications are far-reaching. For example from 1 April a gym or cellphone company won’t be able to automatically renew your membership. And if the steak you ordered isn’t as big as the one in the ad the eatery had better get you another – and fast.

Irritating telemarketers who call you at the most inconvenient times to try to persuade you to buy something will have to think twice. And gone are the days of being told to wait at airports for hours after a cancelled flight. Consumers must get what they’ve been promised and what they’ve paid for.

The Act not only provides consumers with protection against inferior service or dishonest marketing, it also provides measures to protect them against harmful products.

An organisation to handle consumer complaints is in the process of being created and businesses that don’t play by the rules after 1 April could pay dearly. Fines of up to 10 per cent of their annual turnover could be imposed.

Read on to find out how the new legislation will affect you.

READERS’ COMMON COMPLAINTS - Contracts that are automatically renewed without consent. - Cold callers who want to sell things. - Flights that are cancelled without warning. - Supermarkets that advertise special offers and run out of stock. - Incorrect change given in stores.

WHERE TO COMPLAIN If you have a complaint call the National Consumers’ Commission on  0861-843-384 , fax 012-394-2558 or e-mail

Complaint forms can be downloaded from and posted to the Department of Trade and Industries, National Consumers’ Commission, Consumer Complaints, Private Bag X84, Pretoria 0001.

Get more info in YOU, 31 March 2011.

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