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Consumer Protection Act: Government Announces Campaign to Raise Awareness

January 28, 2011

Department of Trade and Industry

The department of trade and industry will soon begin a campaign to raise public awareness of consumer rights enshrined in Consumer Protection Act 68 of 2008.

The act comes into effect on 1 April 2011.

According to a media statement, it will be implemented by the National Consumer Council, which will “take over” the department’s office of consumer protection.

In particular, the media statement draws attention to sections 20 and 56 of the act.

Section 20 deals with a consumer’s right to return goods under specific circumstances and “receive a full refund of any consideration paid for those goods”, providing for the timeframes entailed. It also prohibits the return of goods withdrawn “for reasons of public health or otherwise”, as well as the return of goods that have been altered in any way or permanently installed/affixed.

Section 56 of the act deals with an implied warranty of quality and/or safety, a supplier’s obligations in this regard and related timeframes.

Inter alia, the purpose of the act is to:

· promote a fair, accessible and sustainable marketplace for consumer products and services;
· establish national norms and standards relating to consumer protection;
· provide for improved standards of consumer information;
· prohibit certain unfair marketing and business practices;
· promote responsible consumer behaviour;
· promote a consistent legislative and enforcement framework relating to consumer transactions and agreements; and to
· establish the National Consumer Commission.

Schedule 2 of the act sets out transitional provisions. These allow for the act to be effected incrementally.

24 October 2010 was originally set as the date on which chapters 1 (interpretation, purpose and application) and 5 (consumer protection institutions) of the act – as well as section 120 and “any other provision authorising the minister to make regulations” – were to have come into effect.

On 23 September 2010, in terms of schedule 2(2)(3), general notice 917 of Government Gazette 33581 announced a six-month deferment of the effective date of the act on the grounds that additional time was required for the “adequate preparation” of the necessary administrative systems”. The “general effective date of the act” was accordingly deferred “until 31 March 2011”.

Draft regulations were made available in November 2010, with the deadline for comment set at 31 January 2011.

The act repeals:

· sections 2 to 13 and sections 16 to 17 of Merchandise Marks Act 17 of 1941;
· Business Names Act 27 of 1960;
· Price Control Act 25 of 1964;
· Sales and Service Matters Act 25 of 1964;
· Trade Practices Act 76 of 1976; and
· Consumer Affairs (Unfair Business Practices) Act 71 of 1988.