New act boon for consumers

South Africans are among the best protected consumers in the world, thanks to former president Kgalema Motlanthe signing the Consumer Protection Bill into law at the end of last month.

South Africans are among the best protected consumers in the world, thanks to former president Kgalema Motlanthe signing the Consumer Protection Bill into law at the end of last month.

The new act is intended to protect consumers from exploitation and unfair practices by unscrupulous businesses.

It is also aimed at empowering consumers to make wise purchasing decisions, according to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

It means that South African consumers will legally be able to cancel contracts if they are not satisfied with the terms.

Suppliers will not be allowed to automatically renew contracts.

This means that once your two-year contract term with Vodacom, Cell C or MTN has expired, they cannot just renew it willy-nilly.

In addition consumers will also be protected from unscrupulous businesses that convince them to waive the obligations and liability of the supplier in the terms of agreement.

It achieves this by introducing a system of product liability and improved redress.

Producers, distributors or suppliers, will be liable for any damages in the form of death, injury, loss, or damage to property and economic loss, to the consumer or third party.

DTI acting deputy director-general Nomfundo Maseti said under the new act consumers could return the goods to the supplier without penalty if the goods fail to meet the required standards.

Getclosure! director Patrick Deale of the customer service complaint and consumer affairs portal says the act will provide effective, accessible and efficient systems of redress for all South Africans.

But he warns consumers that this will not happen overnight because of the time needed to implement the act.

According to the DTI the National Consumer Commission will be established 12 months from the date of the enactment.

The commission will be an enforcement and investigative body on consumer protection issues and will be responsible for the implementation of the act after 18 months.

"In addition to the massive protection of South African consumers, the act is to be applauded for promoting consumer activism via accreditation and financial support for consumer-related activities," Deale said.

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