Ever wondered whether the law does protect the little guy? The Consumer Protection Act of 2008 (the “CPA”), brought about radical changes to contract law as we know it, in order to even the playing field between suppliers (primarily retailers and service providers) on the one hand, and consumers on the other hand.
These changes included protections such as the right to safe products, rights on transparency of risks in using products, disclosure of product pricing and prior written quotes for repair or maintenance services, to curtailing certain undesirable marketing practices, such as bait marketing and negative option marketing.
Individual consumers (as opposed to corporate consumers) enjoy the full unlimited protection under the CPA in the event that the transaction in question constitutes a “transaction” as defined in terms of the CPA. In essence a “transaction” is an agreement between a supplier and a consumer, in terms of which the supplier supplies goods or services to the consumer in the supplier’s ordinary course of business, for consideration (there are exceptions, but this constitutes the core of the CPA).
Often the supplier will supply goods that are defective or goods that fail to perform in the manner intended by the parties. What can the consumer do in such circumstances? The CPA gives the consumer the right to safe and good quality goods, which amongst others means that the goods must be free of defects, work as intended, be useable for the purpose intended, and useable and durable for a reasonable period of time (given the use the product in question would normally be put to).
Irrespective of any contractual warranty that the supplier gives in respect of the goods, the CPA provides an overriding extra implied warranty as a legislative minimum, that may not be waived or contracted out of. If therefore, the goods are defective, the consumer may – within 6 months of the goods being delivered to them – return the goods to the supplier and exercise one of the three ‘Rs’ provided for in the CPA, which the supplier must comply with: (1) repair the goods, (2) replace the goods or (3) refund the consumer the full price of the goods.
If the consumer elects that the goods be repaired, and the goods (or a component thereof) remain defective within 3 months after such repair, the consumer may require that the supplier to either (1) replace or (2) refund the full purchase price of the goods. New or reconditioned parts are also subject to a 3 month minimum warranty.
Suppliers of goods or services should by now be acutely aware of your rights under the Consumer Protection Act, and the risks they run in the event that they do not resolve your problem with a defective product properly and timeously.
Compared with many other countries, South Africans don’t readily complain about poor products or service delivery, but using your rights under the CPA actually ensures product and service standards are maintained to the benefit of other customers. Retailers or service providers also benefit by being given the opportunity to maintain a good reputation with their after sales service delivery, and to ensure that the suppliers they decide to contract with, manufacture, import and distribute quality products which in turn results in healthy competition and better products.
*The above article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice, which must be obtained from an attorney who can assess the specific facts of each case. As such neither the author/ owner of the article, nor the publication (or their staff/ agents) accepts any liability of whatsoever nature arising from the use of or efficacy of this information.
Matthew Thorpe operates a legal consultancy which specialises in commercial law matters and is contactable on firstname.lastname@example.org