IF SOUTH Africa hopes to build a culture of consumer rights it should have the regulations in place.

IF SOUTH Africa hopes to build a culture of consumer rights it should have the regulations in place.

"Otherwise we are just creating another legislative showpiece," said Niel Kirby, director of Healthcare and Life Sciences at Werksmans Attorneys.

Kirby said the first stage of the implementation of the Consumer Protection Act, which was last Thursday, came with no regulations that would give it teeth.

"Regulations have not been made available and without them, the act's implementation could be a bit of a damp squib."

The act's product liability provisions are now legally binding on manufacturers and retailers. Consumers can sue for damages for flawed or harmful products.

But the regulations have not been made available for public debate. Draft regulations should have been available months ago for debate. On the date of implementation there was no sign of any progress in the offing.

"Until then it is like a car without an engine," Kirby said.

He said the lack of regulations does not stop consumers from using the act to get a faulty product fixed or to sue for damages, but product liability is not the only consumer-related issue with which the act deals.

"The rest of its provisions are due to come into effect at the end of October and nothing at all appears to be in place for it.

"Such a state of affairs is inconsistent with the gradual coming into force of this legislation, which is designed to make it easier for consumers and suppliers to deal with the act and integrate its provisions into our commercial affairs."

Furthermore, with no regulations spelling out the scope and ambit of exemptions and thresholds, it is difficult for consumers and business alike to understand how the consumer protection framework will work in practice, Kirby said.

Regulations would tell us what organisations and products would be affected and which would be exempted, what regulatory assistance would be available to consumers and how the act would be enforced.