What are your rights and responsibilities as a consumer? What are your legal options when it comes to unwanted direct marketing, needing to get out of a fixed-term agreement or finding that you’ve been sold a damaged item? The Consumer Protection Act 68 of 2008 (“CPA”) holds the answers to these questions and this blog will give you some useful info to keep in mind in everyday situations that may affect you.
What is the CPA?
The CPA aims to protect the consumer (that’s you) from potential abuse or dishonesty when using suppliers (shops, stores and service providers), as well as setting out good business practices for the supplier.
Your consumer rights and responsibilities are outlined in the CPA and they’re in effect any time you purchase products or make use of services.
The CPA and shopping
You have the right to shop where you choose, and suppliers aren’t allowed to intimidate or threaten you to get you to buy something. Prices and dates of promotions need to be clearly shown and suppliers aren’t allowed to lie about the benefits or uses of a product.
Also, suppliers aren’t allowed to unfairly discriminate against you on the basis of gender, sex, race, language, religion, disability, sexual orientation, marital status or for any other reason. If you feel you’ve been discriminated against, you have the right to file a complaint with the National Consumer Commission.
The CPA and direct marketing
Direct marketing is when businesses directly reaches out to advertise to you, whether through emails, SMSs, mail or phone calls. The CPA states that you have the right to choose how you’d like to receive this advertising and opt out whenever you choose to.
If you receive direct marketing that you don’t want, you can ask to be removed from their marketing list, use the opt out button or link, or reply STOP to an SMS. The supplier needs to respect your wishes and isn’t allowed to charge you for this request.
The CPA and Fixed-Term Agreements
When it comes to fixed-term agreements (such as your cell phone or internet contract), the CPA requires this type of contract to have a clear start and end date. Some agreements, like cell phone contracts, automatically renew once you’ve reached the end of the initial term, but you can cancel it permanently once it ends and you shouldn’t be charged a penalty.
If you want to cancel a fixed-term agreement before it ends, you need to give the supplier 20 business days’ notice and you may be charged a reasonable penalty. Be sure to read the fine print though. Supplier agreements vary and once you’ve signed an agreement you’re bound to their terms.
The CPA, quotes and repairs
You are entitled to get a written quote from a supplier, regardless of whether you end up using that their products or services, and they aren’t allowed to ask for payment for the quote.
A supplier is not allowed to do any repairs or service without informing you first and getting your permission. You cannot be charged for repairs that were done without your permission or knowledge.
The CPA, damaged products and refunds
If you buy products that are damaged or unsafe, you can return them to the supplier for a refund, replacement or repair within 6 months, as long as you weren’t the one who damaged them. But if you deliberately damage a product that you weren’t intending to buy or cause damage by acting recklessly, the supplier has the right to charge you.
If you receive a product that’s delivered to you, you have the right to check it isn’t undamaged before signing for it.
Being aware of some of your rights is the key to staying protected and making sure you are treated fairly. There are many more aspects to the CPA, but hopefully this tour through the highlights helped you #LearnSomethingNew.