A powerful ally

Adele Shevel

Adele Shevel

Booking a seat on an airplane does not always mean getting it, as anyone who has been bumped off an overbooked flight knows.

To add to that inconvenience, there is little if anything to compensate the consumer who may have suffered more than just a few wasted hours.

But this looks set to change.

The Consumer Protection Bill of 2007, as Donald Dinnie, a director of legal firm Deneys Reitz says, is "unashamedly pro-consumer".

Consumers who have been shunted about, been at the receiving end of a defunct product, or were unable to access a service for which they paid and are inconvenienced, will find a stronger ally to fight back in the form of this bill.

The consumer will need to prove he or she was disadvantaged and no other viable alternatives were put forward.

In the case of the airline for instance, consumers may face greater inflexibility on the part of the product on a "use it or lose it" basis. As in - you make the plane and that's fine, but if you miss it - tough luck.

Dinnie points out that non-profit entities are not immune from this.

The impact for big business is likely reworking of contractual documentation as they reformulate small print and content.

The impact for small business could be more onerous because of their smaller pool of administrative and financial resources.

On the other hand, big companies will have more contracts to check.

Dinnie says various blood transfusion services in the country that are non-profit entities may be exposed to liability for blood and blood products where, for example, blood is infected with HIV and then transfused to a patient.

An effect will no doubt be that the market for product liability insurance will expand. - Business Times