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Know your Consumer Rights

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Although most of us have most likely heard about the Consumer Protection Act (CPA), and may even know parts of it; most us don’t have the time or patience to read almost 100 pages of legislation. We tend to leave this up to our lawyers and the judiciary and, unfortunately, many businesses capitalise on this. Megan Whittingtonhas made a list of some consumer rights scenarios.

Cartoon: Calvin & Hobbes is (c) 2012 Bill Waterson - originally published by 1547 University Press Syndicate.

  1. You know those annoying advertisement SMSes that you’ve done your best to get rid of? According to section 11 of the Act, they’re not allowed to pester you if you’ve told them to stop; nor are they allowed to contact you on public holidays, Sundays or before 8am/after 8pm. If you’ve asked them to take you of their list or replied with ‘stop’ and you’re still receiving messages; you can make an official complaint with the Provincial Consumer Affairs Office.
  1. Perhaps as you’re shopping for a new fridge, you’re subjected to a particularly anxious-to-sell trainee who guarantees that it has all sorts of wonderful abilities. You cart your new fridge home and find that it’s below average. Luckily, the CPA says that if a product you buy doesn’t have the features that were promised; you’re entitled to a full refund. If the company refuses; they’re in violation of section 41 of the Act.
  1. As you’re reading the Sunday paper, a pamphlet with a fantastic special grabs your attention. Thespecial price is only valid on that day so you leave for the mall immediately. When you arrive at the shop, you’re told that the items on special had sold out within an hour after opening. Good news – section 23 of the Act lets you insist on being able to purchase the item at the special price, or at the very least, have one of their other stores organise the item for you.
  1. You found an old airtime voucher that you purchased over a year ago, but your network provider tells you it’s expired and you can’t use it. Section 63 of the CPA says that if you’ve purchased and not redeemed a prepaid or gift voucher within the last three years; you can insist on getting a new voucher (without paying anything more) or get your money back.
  1. You’ve booked and paid for a transport service. When you arrive, you’re told that the service in question is full due to over-booking and they can no longer accommodate you. This is a huge convenience, but the consolation is that you can insist that they refund you with interest and that they pay for another means of transport, even if it’s with a different company. If they refuse; a threat with making a complaint based on section 47 of the CPA should ruffle their feathers.
  1. If you buy a product that is faulty, use it correctly, and it causes damage to another one of your belongings; you have a claim. For example, you purchase a new cell phone charger, plug it in and connect it to your phone. It malfunctions and causes permanent damage to your phone. You can demand a full refund for the faulty charger and claim damages for the harm done to the phone. If they refuse, they will be in violation of section 55 of the Act.

These are just a few of the ways that the Consumer Protection Act can make a difference in the everyday lives of South African consumers. If you believe that your rights, as a consumer, have been breached then you can make a complaint to the National Consumer Commission here:  http://www.nccsa.org.za/complaint/complaint-form.html/.

For a user-friendly guide to the CPA click here: http://www.legal-aid.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/YOUR_RIGHTS-THE_CONSUMER_PROTECTION_ACT.pdf

Clickhere to access the full-length version of the CPA: http://www.thenct.org.za/NCTDocs/founding-legislation/f8d6f6aa-994d-4305-b3d0-ea056416bbd0.pdf.

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