What is the Consumer Protection Act
Labour Attorney Cape Town
What is the Consumer Protection Act?
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The Consumer Protection Act has now been passed into law in South Africa. This groundbreaking legislation promises to change the way all businesses deal with their customers. The threats could be huge, but there are also opportunities for those who apply better strategies in a newly consumer empowered South Africa.
This Act has been brought into law to promote and advance the social and economic welfare of all consumers and seeks to:
Establish a legal framework for a fair, accessible, efficient, sustainable and responsible consumer market.
Reduce the disadvantages of accessing goods and services when the consumer is a person in a weaker bargaining position, e.g. low income persons or communities, rural communities, the disabled, illiterate, elderly or young.
Promote fair business practices.
Protect consumers against unfair, unreasonable, unjust or improper trade practices.
Protect consumers against deceptive, misleading, unfair or fraudulent conduct.
Improve consumer awareness and information and encourage responsible and informed consumer choice and behaviour.
Promote consumer confidence, empowerment and the development of a culture of consumer responsibility.
Provide a system for consensual (rather than adversarial) resolution of disputes arising from consumer transactions.
Provide an accessible, consistent, harmonized, effective and efficient system of redress for consumers.
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It is generally accepted worldwide that consumers, especially those on the lower rungs of the economic ladder, need some form of protection from unscrupulous suppliers and trade practices. It would be great if the market could regulate itself but unfortunately this does not happen. SA has in the past introduced various laws relating to consumer protection. But these laws are applied in a haphazard manner either through a largely toothless enforcement agency or via expensive court machinery.
The Consumer Protection Act introduces a single consumer protection law (with certain financial services excluded) and it is to be welcomed for this. Whether it will achieve its objectives remains to be seen. The long-term effects on business, especially SME’s, and consumers can only be measured once the new law has been implemented (which will be staggered over an 18 month period).
The forthcoming Guide to the Consumer Protection Act will address concerns that businesspeople share througout South Africa. It will deal with each area of the Act and provide business focused advice on how to prepare for the effects of this new legislation and leverage it towards commercial advantage.